The unhealthy state of homelessness report explores the health and wellbeing of homeless people in England and the support that is available to them.
Homelessness and health research
Based on 2,590 responses from people using services in 19 areas across England, the unhealthy state of homelessness highlights the extent to which homeless people experience some of the worst health problems in society.
Widespread ill health
- 73% of homeless people reported physical health problems. 41% said this was a long term problem.
- 80% of respondents reported some form of mental health issue, 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health issue.
- 39% said they take drugs or are recovering from a drug problem, while 27% have or are recovering from an alcohol problem.
- 35% had been to A&E and 26% had been admitted to hospital over the past six months.
Worse than the general public
- 41% of homeless people reported a long-term physical health problem (compared to just 28% of the general population).
- 45% had been diagnosed with a mental health problem (25%).
- 36% had taken drugs in the past six months (5%).
- 35% do not eat at least two meals a day.
- Two-thirds consume more than the recommended amount of alcohol each time they drink.
- 77% smoke.
Not enough help
- 15% of respondents with physical health needs reported not receiving help.
- 17.5% of those with mental health issues and 16.7% with alcohol issues would like support but are not receiving it.
- 7% have been denied access to a dentist or GP.
Signs of progress
There is evidence of improvements in a number of areas since our 2010 report. According to the latest data 36% of homeless people admitted to hospital report being discharged onto the streets with nowhere to go. In 2010, this issue was reported by 73% of respondents admitted to hospital.
Following Homelss Link and St Mungo's research in 2012, the Department of Health announced £10m of funding for 52 projects to improve hospital discharge procedure for homeless people.
Our evaluation of this project shows that results can be greatly improved when housing and health are jointly commissioned. In projects containing NHS and housing staff, 93% of patients were discharged to suitable accommodation.
The homeless hospital discharge evaluation reiterates our call for homelessness to be considered a health issue, and for the housing and health sectors to work more closely. However, this is only possible with investment and commissioning of the right services.
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Head of policy and communications
Helen currently job shares her role with Caroline Bernard, jointly overseeing Homeless Link’s policy, research, information and communications team.
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