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  1. ITV Report

Rise in homeless Londoners struggling with mental health

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, ITV News is highlighting issues or conditions often under-represented in terms of awareness as well as looking at positive and therapeutic initiatives helping people with their mental health recovery. #MHAW17

NHS psychologists are working in homeless hostels and mental health specialists are joining outreach workers on the streets in pioneering projects in London to try to help the rising numbers of rough sleepers struggling with their mental health.

Last year, 3724 people with mental health problems were sleeping on the capital's streets, an increase of 52% in the last five years.

The latest official figures show 50% have an identified mental health issue, although psychologists believe the true figure to be much higher.

Dr Emma Williamson, a clinical psychologist for South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trust, said almost every client struggles with their mental health.

She's in charge of a pioneering team whose office is in a homeless hostel in Vauxhall run by the London charity Thames Reach. They are the only team of NHS psychologists in the country to be based inside a hostel.

To be in their home working alongside individuals, it can slowly allow us to engage and to build trust but it also means that we can be available when a crisis occurs.

– Dr Emma Williamson

Justin Strevens has lived there for almost two years. In his 44 years, this is the longest he's ever stayed in one place.

Before he came here, he'd been sleeping rough for a decade trying to deal with depression and traumatic grief as well as alcohol addiction.

Justin Strevens slept rough for 10 years while suffering with depression Credit: ITV News

This life isn't easy, people look at homeless people and they just walk past. You lose touch with things when you're on the street, it's really difficult when you're out there; I'd love someone to climb inside my skin for just one minute.

– Justin Strevens

Those sleeping rough can be harder to find and even harder to help. Thames Reach outreach workers now often work in partnership with a mental health social worker or consultant psychiatrist.

Outreach worker Ben Sebok works in North London, patrolling wasteland to visit and revisit people with mental health issues living in tents and makeshift shelters.

Mental health lately is becoming more and more of an issue. After being out on the street for a long time living in this kind of circumstances, it's no wonder people can fall ill and their mental health can decrease.

– Ben Sebok, outreach worker