Rough sleepers urinated on by public, 'horrifying' study finds

Four in five street sleepers have been assaulted, mostly by members of the public

Homeless UK
 A homeless man begging on the Strand, London
(Image credit: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Eighty per cent of rough sleepers say they have been attacked while on the streets, according to a survey by homeless charity Crisis.

In the survey, street sleepers described sexual assaults, being urinated on and having their possessions stolen, mostly by members of the public, the BBC reports.

Crisis interviewed 458 rough sleepers, who in more than half of instances said they did not report the abuse to the police because they thought nothing would be done.

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Jon Sparkes, the chief executive of Crisis, said the survey revealed a "horrifying state of affairs".

"Violent and abusive experiences can cause not only physical harm but can also undermine people’s attempts to seek help and move on from homelessness. Too many rough sleepers are left living in fear and isolation," Sparkes said.

Gary, who slept rough in Yorkshire, told the charity he knew people who had been attacked by gangs of youths who roamed the streets in the early hours.

"Anyone sleeping in the shop door was done," he said. "They used to brick them or worse still – a couple of lads that were sleeping on the streets with me got knifed while they were asleep."

Another respondent, Simon, described how he was sitting reading a book when a passer-by asked him if he was homeless. When Simon said yes, the man kicked him in the head.

Other street sleepers said that they became more reclusive in order to avoid assault, despite the mental effects of loneliness.

Earlier this year St Mungo's estimated that a quarter of the 97 people who died while sleeping on English streets during the past five years suffered a violent death, the Guardian says. Women were more likely to be targets than men, the Crisis survey showed.

An average of 3,569 people slept rough on any one night in England in 2015, a 30 per cent rise on the previous year. Crisis will welcome around 4,000 homeless to its 11 centres during the Christmas period and is calling on the government to take action to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill, which proposes councils intervene within 56 days – rather than the current 28 – when someone faces homelessness comes before a House of Commons committee in January.

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