THE CEO of the Streets2Homes scheme has revealed that over a third of its homeless clientele are suffering from mental health problems.

However, only 46 per cent of that 35 per cent accepted they had a mental health condition; prompting Kerrie Eastman to admit the “taboo” still existed.

She said: “They treat symptoms of bad mental health as it being ‘their norm.’”

“It’s still considered a taboo, especially among the older generation.”

Statistics go some way towards explaining Eastman’s stance. Seventy-one per cent of Streets2Homes’ intake is male.

She continued: “There’s still the idea that men are supposed to portray that rugged, masculine image.”

Her claim about the older generation may also ring true, given a combined 32 per cent belong to the 40-49 and 50-59 age groups.

“Many of the people at Streets2Homes don’t have any family members that can refer them for mental health problems.”

This reluctance has possibly led to one damning statistic that “most” of the 200-plus people eligible to bid for one-bedroom, council-owned apartments are turned away due to not being considered a “priority.”

The council’s priority lies with homeless people that have severe medical conditions, such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, and Eastman felt a greater acceptance of mental health problems would lead to more occupancies.

Harlow is among the 30 per cent most deprived towns in the United Kingdom, with 394 people referred to Streets2Homes over a 12-month period between February 2016 and 2017.

Moreover, homelessness in Harlow has gone up by 133 per cent in the last five years, 13 per cent greater than the national average of 120 per cent.

Another growing trend is sofa-surfers, a branch of homelessness that sees people ‘surf’ from one place to another.

According to Eastman, there are now hundreds of sofa-surfers in Harlow however; many still opt for the traditional route of living outside.

Relationship breakdown is seen as a major factor, with mainly men walking out of their homes.

“Many of these people live in terrible squalor. They come to us after being bitten by rats or living in the woods,” she said.