Rough sleepers have been urinated on and had bricks thrown at them, survey shows

Rough sleepers have been physically attacked, verbally abused, had bricks and beer cans thrown at them, and some have even been urinated on, according to a survey by a homelessness charity.

In 70% of cases, the person responsible for the most recent incident experienced by the rough sleeper was a member of the public, Crisis said, with other perpetrators including security guards, business owners and fellow rough sleepers.

Earlier this month, McDonald’s apologised after a security guard was filmed mopping the pavement where a homeless person was sitting.

Footage posted on social media of the incident in Victoria Street in central London showed the security guard soaking the ground where the man had been sitting, with the rough sleeper saying “Leave me alone” before the guard kicked a blanket out of the way and splashed more water along the pavement.

Last week Conservative MP and former minister David Davis told how he had stepped in to stop two men attacking a homeless man near Parliament.

The 74-year-old former Brexit secretary intervened after seeing a “spray of blood” as the attackers kicked the man’s head at around 11pm in Great Peter Street, Westminster, on December 12.

The veteran politician, who is a former SAS reservist, let the victim spend the night on his sofa at his nearby flat and took him to hospital the following morning.

More than half (51%) of people sleeping rough have been physically attacked, the Crisis survey suggested.

The charity spoke to 156 people in late summer who had rough sleeping experience within the previous two years, and were in contact with homeless services in England.

Crisis also undertook 20 in-depth interviews alongside the survey.

They found that 90% of those spoken to had experienced some form of violence or abuse.

Three-quarters had had items stolen, while 72% had suffered verbal abuse or harassment.

More than half (53%) had something thrown at them during their time on the street, with examples including bricks and beer cans, while 61% said they had been threatened with violence or intimidated.

More than a quarter had been racially abused, harassed, or attacked (27%), while almost a fifth (18%) had been urinated on, and nine of those who responded said they had been sexually assaulted.

Official figures published by the Government earlier this year gave a snapshot of the situation on the streets, showing that there were estimated to be 3,069 people sleeping rough on a single night in autumn 2022.

Crisis said its survey findings come as it prepares to open the doors of its annual Christmas services, aiming to offer “support, dignity, advice and — vitally — kindness to people experiencing the worst forms of homelessness”.

This year, the charity said it will be supporting more than 590 people who would otherwise be sleeping rough across London, while the organisation said it will be helping more than 7,000 people over the festive period.

Chief executive Matt Downie said: “None of us should have to endure the hardship and inhumanity of rough sleeping, yet far too many people are living in fear and being subjected to abuse and harassment simply because they do not have a home.

“It was only three years ago during the pandemic that we made tremendous efforts to bring people off the streets.

“Now, with cost-of-living pressures acute and rents still unaffordable for so many of us, we are seeing ever-increasing numbers of people being pushed into homelessness, many ending up sleeping rough.”

The charity has appealed to people to support its work helping people sleeping rough

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