St Mungo’s takes #16Days of Action against domestic abuse

    Between Sunday 25 November and Monday 10 December we took part in the global 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse. Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager, and Tee Falcone, St Mungo’s volunteer, reflect on a packed 16 days for St Mungo’s.

    Cat Glew, St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy Manager:

    Thousands of people live in our accommodation or work for St Mungo’s. We know that many of our colleagues and clients are affected by domestic abuse, having either experienced it themselves, or witnessed the effect it has on others.

    Noone should have to deal with domestic abuse alone. This year we wanted our involvement in the global 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse to be bigger and better than ever, to let our clients and staff know where they can turn for support. Our creative staff and clients rose to the challenge, hosting more than 16 events across London, Bristol and beyond.

    We marked White Ribbon Day on 25 November, with staff and clients wearing the ribbon and making the pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

    And throughout the 16 Days of Action we celebrated the Blooming Strong campaign from Standing Together against Domestic Violence. The campaign is a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the emotional strength and resilience of women by presenting a flower to women living and working within our services. This small act celebrates and recognises their strength and demonstrates to women who have experienced or who are experiencing violence how Blooming Strong they are.

    The 16 Days are just the start; we’ve signed the Make A Stand pledge from the Chartered Institute of Housing to show that domestic abuse is a priority for us all year round. Developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, the pledge is an ongoing commitment to support all our staff and clients experiencing domestic abuse.

    We’ve also formed a new task and finish group, bringing together colleagues from across St Mungo’s to make sure we are offering the best possible support for our clients and staff.

    Tee Falcone, St Mungo’s Domestic Abuse Task and Finish Group:

    The 16 Days of Action is an important time to raise awareness and a time for reflection and positive changes, for women to continue to see and believe in a brighter future ahead.

    I prefer not to use the word ‘victim’ of domestic abuse, it portrays an image of weakness and vulnerability. I prefer the word ‘survivor’ or ‘conqueror’ – what a beautiful image of strength and resilience.

    Being strong as a survivor means working towards a stronger mindset. It means striving to overcome the past and gain full concentration for the future, taking a closer look at those around you – do they have your best interests at heart? Listen to your instincts – they are rarely wrong.

    The first vital part of support for women following on from domestic abuse actually comes from within, when a woman admits she’s had enough. This is your healing period to regain your sense of self. Loving yourself is important; put yourself first. Admit to yourself what you have had enough – you will know – and seek help when you need it.

    But with any therapy or support, there needs to be a firm cut off point in order to not become dependent on your therapist or other members of the group. Now is your time to walk your own path, how exciting.

    A heightened level of hyperawareness is common with survivors of domestic abuse. It can be difficult to trust again, but in time it will become easier. Be kind to yourself – you’ve been through enough.

    You will find yourself reading signs of unhealthy relationships much better. Slowly, and in time, you will feel energised to put yourself first and not to accept any form of controlling behaviour.

    Stay focused; life is beautiful and so are you.

    If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, you can contact a specialist organisation for support:

    National Domestic Violence Helpline: 0808 2000 247
    National LGBT+ Helpline: 0800 999 5428
    Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327

    A Home for Good: what it will take to end rough sleeping

    This week we launched a new report at a reception in Parliament as part of our Home for Good campaign. St Mungo’s Chief Executive Howard Sinclair outlined to MPs, peers, partners and clients attending what we believe it will take to end rough sleeping. This is his speech.

    Thank you to everyone for coming, especially to our speakers and our host Bob Blackman MP. And a special thanks to Kevin who has already done so much to support our Home for Good campaign. Your story and enthusiasm has truly inspired us to be ambitious about the changes we want to see.

    And our Home for Good campaign is ambitious. It’s a campaign for more social housing, a more secure and affordable private rented sector and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    These are the changes needed to put an end to rough sleeping. An end to people sleeping outside, exposed not just to the elements, but to violence and abuse, falling quickly into a state of despair and desperation that comes from not having a safe place to call home.

    St Mungo’s services work to end rough sleeping for these very individuals every day by:

    • Getting a roof over people’s heads
    • Supporting them to address the issues that led to homelessness
    • Helping them to make a journey of recovery from the damage rough sleeping causes
    • And ultimately helping them to rebuild their lives.

    Kevin’s story, and the stories of many others, encourage us to be ambitious for individuals knowing that with the right help, rough sleeping is not inevitable.

    The tragic return of mass rough sleeping in recent years is something no one should take lightly. Today more people than ever are not only stuck on the streets, but are dying on the streets. Since our reception last year, at least 449 people are known to have died while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation.

    The Government has been clear about its ambition of halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027, and it is encouraging to see the efforts made since our last Parliamentary reception to start work on achieving that ambition. For the opposition parties, as well, rough sleeping and homelessness is high on their agenda.

    The publication of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy, including the funding for the Rough Sleeping Initiative, are very welcome steps. We know the Rough Sleeping Initiative money is making a difference in this respect. But as Kevin’s story shows, the right accommodation and support also need to be in place to help people stay off the streets.

    The report we’re launching today highlights the long term value of floating support, which is not always visible like a hostel in the local community, but does a vital job of helping people hang onto their homes.

    Our report also presents new evidence that funding for services which prevent and reduce homelessness is slipping away at a much faster rate than the Government is topping it up. The report includes new research showing an 18% reduction in funding for floating support services over the past five years in the areas with the highest numbers of people sleeping rough, in London the funding has reduced by 41%.

    And it’s an ever greater challenge in many towns and cities to help people find the secure, safe and affordable housing they need in order to rebuild their lives away from the street for good.

    Ten years of steady dis-investment in services, in housing and in support has lead us to this position, we know how to sort it but we cannot do it overnight.

    The short term Rough Sleeping Initiative is welcome – but it is ‘short term’. Next year’s Spending Review presents a real opportunity to inject some certainty into the Government’s plan to end rough sleeping. It is an opportunity to tackle the structural factors driving more people onto the street.

    I am clear that the number of people sleeping rough tonight across the country is a national disaster. 4,751 people on any one night, 4,751 people without any roof over their head. And in a disaster situation we would expect an emergency relief response, as well as a coming together of public authorities and civil society to provide the long-term solution. We would also expect, that as a society, we would strive to ensure it never happened again.

    The Government has rightly focused on the emergency response, but we also need the focus on long-term housing and support, and on preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    That’s why our Home for Good campaign makes three asks; more social housing, including specialist housing specifically for people moving on from rough sleeping; a more secure and affordable private rented sector; and a new programme of long-term, guaranteed funding for homelessness services.

    That’s what it will take to end rough sleeping and that’s what we look forward to seeing as the next steps to achieve the Government’s ambition to end rough sleeping for good.

    Support our Home for Good campaign to end rough sleeping for good.

    Whilst numbers of people rough sleeping rise, essential services are being cut

    This week at the Houses of Parliament St Mungo’s released a research report highlighting the role of essential support services in ending rough sleeping. Robyn Casey, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, reflects on the findings and how the Government can take action to ensure everyone can have a Home for Good.

    Last month, homelessness outreach teams and volunteers went out across England to count the number of people who were sleeping rough for official Government figures. Over recent years, these counts have revealed shocking trends as between 2010 and 2017 the number of people sleeping rough had more than doubled.

    At St Mungo’s we’re working towards a time when there is no one sleeping rough, but know that there is much more work to be done to end rough sleeping for good.

    Everyone deserves a home for good

    The Government has promised to end rough sleeping by 2027, and our Home for Good campaign outlines the steps they need to take to achieve this.

    For starters, it is crucial that more housing is available to people with a history of sleeping rough, and that these homes are affordable, long term options.

    That’s why we’re calling on the Government to embark on an ambitious programme to build more social housing, with some of these new homes reserved for people who have slept rough. Reform of the private rented sector – including making tenancies more stable and limiting rent increases – will also mean that fewer people will face eviction from their home.

    However, we know that it takes more than a roof over someone’s head to end homelessness. Some people need additional support to keep their home for good. At St Mungo’s, we work with people who have a range of support needs. For example, in 2017-18, 50% of people seen sleeping rough in London had a mental health problem, 43% had a problem with alcohol use and 40% had a problem with drug use.

    Many others who have a history of sleeping rough struggle to manage a tenancy without support to pay their bills, speak to their landlord, or manage a welfare claim. Floating support services can help them to do this.

    Floating support provides the help that people need

    Floating support workers help stop people returning to the streets by providing support to people in their own home. This support is tailored to the person but can involve helping people to keep on top of their bills and control their finances; manage mental health or substance use problems; navigate the benefits system; or get into training or employment.

    Evidence shows these types of services both reduce the amount of rent arrears that people with a history of homelessness can build up and the number of people who are taken to court over rent arrears. They can also help people with a long history of rough sleeping to get, and keep, their homes.

    But unfortunately, funding for these services has declined dramatically over the past five years. At the same time, rough sleeping has hugely increased.

    Funding cuts have put these services at risk of closure

    We asked local authorities for details about their floating support contracts between 2013 and 2018. Shockingly, we found that funding for these services had decreased by an average of 18% across England. The funding cuts were even starker at a regional level, with a 41% reducation across London and 26% across the South East. Tellingly, these are the areas with the highest proportion of people sleeping rough in England.

    We also looked at funding for specialist services. Whilst funding for generic services, which anyone can access, increased by 5% over the five year period, specialist services for people with mental health needs declined by 44% and for ex-offenders declined by an astonishing 88%.

    These specialist services are important because floating support workers are experts in helping people to access the right healthcare for them and in advising them of their rights. Without this expertise, some people will fall through the cracks.

    Homelessness services, including floating support, need long term guaranteed funding to ensure they are available to everyone who needs them. But for too long these services have faced funding cuts and insecurity.

    Getting everyone the support they need

    Our Home for Good campaign is calling on the government to put an end to rough sleeping by ensuring that everyone gets the long term housing and support they need to rebuild their lives.

    The Government can make this happen by urgently reviewing the decline in funding for housing related support services, including floating support, and committing to guaranteeing funding for local authorities to plan and commission homelessness services. They should also ensure that local homelessness and rough sleeping strategies include a focus on ongoing support, including floating support services.

    Help us end rough sleeping for good by signing Kevin’s open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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