‘Giving people a fresh start in life’

    “We help people who are living in their own homes but need support to ensure they are able to keep a roof over their head.” Ola Pedro, Team Leader at St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team North, tells us about how his team supports people who previously slept rough to live independently in the community.

    St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST) North works with people who formerly slept rough and who are now housed across North London. Our team supports them to maintain their tenancies and to further develop their skills and confidence to move on into independent accommodation – moving away from homelessness for good.

    We want to make sure people are socially included. We link them with packages of support, as needed – around mental health, substance misuse, employment, ex-offending, offending – as well as other activities to help them sustain their tenancies and feel part of the wider community.

    ‘We carry out home visits to make sure that people are living safely’

    We work with people who are often tackling three or more health and other issues, for example, substance use, risk of offending, and or physical and mental health problems. The sector jargon would be ‘high needs’ clients and they can need a lot more intense one to one support.

    We carry out home visits regularly to check that people are living safely. If there are any issues around their support needs, these can be represented in how they live. For example, if a person is going through severe depression, the state of their property can reveal that. These visits mean we can make sure the person is comfortable in their home, in their area, and to identify any maintenance issues or anything that landlords need to be aware of.

    Benefits are a major issue at the moment. The roll out of Universal Credit has caused a lot of stress for our clients. We are finding many people are having to go without money while their applications are being processed, for six to eight weeks. This is something that TST staff have had to pick up. If not, it creates issues which permeate into every other area of people’s lives and means they need even more support. We help people, for example, by offering food vouchers and topping up their electricity and gas, if needed. We have drop-ins every Monday and Friday, so people can also come in and sit down with us for some support if they want.

    ‘I feel joy when I go home’

    I got into St Mungo’s through volunteering at St Mungo’s Islington Mental Health Team. I tried a corporate job but just didn’t find it rewarding. I like the dynamism of this role – it’s extremely active, you’re never in once place for a long time. I’m the team manager but I also work with clients, I support around 55 clients myself. I’ll visit about four or five clients in one day, each needing different kinds of support, so it’s about balancing that with the managing and admin side of the role.

    I feel joy when I go home as I know I’m making a difference. I’m improving the quality of people’s lives – taking them from a place where they are not so happy to a place where they can feel confident, and our team are part of that process.

    ‘Giving people a fresh start in life’

    I supported one person, for example, who had his tenancy taken over by a group of drug dealers. They were force feeding him crack cocaine and heroin, just so they could use his accommodation to cook and to sell the drugs.

    He didn’t actually tell me this had happened until I got a phone call to say that he’d been admitted into hospital for abscesses on his arms and hands from injecting. He had also been beaten up really badly.

    When I went to the hospital, I had a really long discussion with him about why he didn’t want to tell me this. He said there were a lot of feelings of guilt and shame around why he didn’t want to tell me what had happened.

    We worked together very closely over the next three months and he’s now been rehoused away from that area. He got a chance to start a fresh life and went to rehab. He’s completely clean of the drugs that were forcibly put in his system.

    When I go home and think about that story, that’s what drives me and makes me want to do this job always.

    Taking on our biggest challenge for St Mungo’s

    Residential property specialist, Chestertons, has supported St Mungo’s since 2015, hosting events for our clients, raising vital funds in their offices and through sporting challenges, and getting involved first hand with our Real Lettings and outreach projects. Allan Collins, CEO of Chestertons, and his son, Sam Collins, a Human Resources Advisor at Chestertons, tell us why they have taken on their biggest fundraising challenge to date – the London Marathon 2018.


    I’ve seen a lot of things since we partnered with St Mungo’s, and it’s changed my attitude to homelessness in London and giving back to the community. One of my motivations is that our staff have chosen this charity. Although I knew very little about it before the partnership, since being involved, you notice much more about homelessness and people who are homeless. I think I’m probably guilty of walking past a homeless person without thinking about it. Now at least I think about it and wonder whether there has been a StreetLink report for that person out on the streets.

    On 22 April, my son Sam and I will take on the Virgin Money London Marathon to support St Mungo’s. One of the things I noticed having spoken to people at St Mungo’s is how committed everybody I’ve come across is, and how they really want to make a difference. It makes you fired up and want to do the same. Although training in the winter is hard, you have to think that at least we are not sleeping outside and can come back inside afterwards.

    I recently went on my first outreach shift at night with St Mungo’s Outreach Worker, Kevin. I was quite surprised at the number of people sleeping rough in London; it did shock me somewhat. I was also surprised at the amount of preparation we did before we went out on the shift.

    One thing that especially struck me was how much Kevin knew about everybody we met – he had come across most of them before. He was very good at finding out information to help people rough sleeping into accommodation.

    A person can end up on the streets for many reasons. It could be bad luck, the end of a tenancy, it could be addiction, or mental health. Kevin did a fantastic job dealing with all the different people and the different reasons they were there, trying to get them into accommodation. He had a good relationship with them; the ones he had met before trusted him.


    We were discussing earlier about how cold it is to go out running in the winter, but when you think about people actually homeless on the street every night, that’s one of my big motivations for running the marathon. It’s horrible to see people just walk past and not see someone as a person – so to treat these people as people and not just walk past them is motivation and this sort of spurs me on to train through the cold winter. I’m out there for a few hours, they are out there all night.

    Between us we have taken on three half marathons – although the Royal Parks one was really hard so I’m worried about the London Marathon. But it’s a good learning curve to start training.

    A key thing we do at Chestertons is raise money for St Mungo’s because that’s how the charity can develop and continue to support their clients.

    A lot of people in the business have fundraised for St Mungo’s, our senior management team and charity committee abseiled down the ArcelorMittal Orbit at Halloween.

    A couple of members of my team are very keen to shave parts of my body for this good cause. I don’t know how keen on this I am – but they are pushing for that!

    Our part is just something that goes to help St Mungo’s – if everyone raises a little bit it can go a long way.

    If you would like to take on a challenge for St Mungos, please take a look at our current event places.

    Towards a new rough sleeping strategy

    Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, writes about our priorities as the Homelessness Reduction Act and other measures seek to end homelessness

    The Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force today. This is a landmark piece of legislation with the potential to have a hugely positive impact on the lives of many more people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness, compared to the previous system. It places new duties on local authorities to help prevent and relieve homelessness for people regardless of ‘priority need’ criteria.

    This follows news last week of a new initiative to reduce rough sleeping and a decision to reinstate entitlement to housing benefit for all 18-21 year olds. These are very welcome steps towards ending the misery of sleeping rough, an aim that surely unites us all.

    In 2016, we at St Mungo’s launched our Stop the Scandal campaign calling for a new national strategy to end rough sleeping and this is what we want to see next.

    The government has committed to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and to eliminate it altogether by 2027. To meet this pledge, a ministerial taskforce has been established to produce a new rough sleeping strategy. A Rough Sleeping Advisory Panel made up of homeless sector representatives, including St Mungo’s, is providing guidance to this ministerial taskforce.

    Rough sleeping has increased by 169% since 2010. On any given night, 4,751 people sleep rough in England.

    Behind these stark figures are people who are living each day at risk of violence, abuse and serious ill health. We have evidence of this from the people themselves, from our outreach teams and our research with people who have experienced rough sleeping. Put simply, it is a scandal.

    That’s why it is good to see a sense of urgency from the government.

    We agree immediate action is needed to move people off the streets and out of danger. Effective outreach services are part of this. So is emergency accommodation and access to mental health and substance use treatment and support. This must also be aligned with measures to prevent people sleeping rough in the first place and long term support to ensure people don’t return to the street.

    The new strategy must protect and expand existing services, which support people off the streets. That includes supported housing, which is the primary route out of rough sleeping for people who need both a safe place to stay and support to recover from homelessness and associated problems, including poor health and experience of violence and abuse.

    However, the government’s current proposals to change the way homeless hostels and other short term supported housing is funded puts the future of these life-saving services at risk.

    As rough sleeping continues to rise nationally, available places in supported housing have fallen due to major cuts in local authority funding. Research by Homeless Link found there was an 18% reduction in bed spaces in homelessness accommodation between 2010 and 2016.

    Despite this, the government now wants local authorities to become responsible for funding the housing costs in hostels, in addition to the support services which councils are already struggling to fund.

    Instead, we think the government should adjust its plans in line with calls from the supported housing sector and continue to provide funding for housing costs via the welfare system.

    Beyond this, ministers will need to consider the role for innovative approaches, such as Housing First, which has proven successful for ending rough sleeping among those with the most complex problems. Government investment in three Housing First pilots is, again, welcome, but ministers will need to establish long term funding arrangements to make this approach work.

    An integrated rough sleeping strategy will also need to be underpinned by a legal framework to help ensure services benefit from sustainable funding and can respond to fluctuations in demand. The Homelessness Reduction Act is a good start, using new legal duties to shift the focus of councils in England towards providing help to prevent homelessness in the first place.

    But if the Act is to be a success, councils must be able to help those in danger of sleeping rough find the right housing and support. Sadly, the reality is the unacceptable shortage of affordable housing options for too many people, and this is another long term challenge for the ministerial taskforce.

    St Mungo’s has always supported people to move off the streets into accommodation and to access the services that can help them rebuild their lives. This can take days, weeks, sometimes years.

    We don’t think it is an easy challenge the government has accepted, but we share their ambition of ending rough sleeping and welcome the opportunity to help get on with it.

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