How St Mungo’s supports women

    16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence is an annual United Nations campaign that runs from 25 November to 10 December, and this year’s theme is UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls.

    In this blog, we look at the services provided by St Mungo’s to support women experiencing homelessness and hear from Michelle Chapman, one of our Domestic Abuse Navigators, about her work.

    The experience of homelessness can vary greatly between men and women. The heightened risk of domestic abuse and sexual violence against women can act as both a potential cause and effect of homelessness, and from the women we support at St Mungo’s, we know that safety is often their most crucial concern.

    As a survivor of abuse herself, Michelle understands the impact that this can have:

    “Being a survivor and working with survivors to me is the ultimate privilege. I see the strength that they have to survive on the streets. They have survived before I knew them and always managed, no matter how hard it is.

    But I also see a fragility in them that’s hidden behind those harsh exteriors and the ravages of a life that some of us can only imagine. The fragility extends to everyone who is in a situation that is beyond their control, whether it is because of their mental health or just the trials of life.”

    At St Mungo’s we provide women-only services and spaces to prevent women being re-traumatised by accessing support with male clients, particularly if they have experienced violence or abuse from a male perpetrator. We believe that women in all areas should have the choice to access mixed or women-only services and spaces based on their safety and preference.

    Health problems are also a major issue, and the average age of death for a woman sleeping rough is just 43. Both women and men alike who are experiencing homelessness are at high risk of physical health problems and are often exposed to further harm from smoking, substance use, poor diet and dangerous living conditions.

    “Some of the girls I support may have addictions and seek to get ‘their fix’ early in the day. Drugs briefly remove them from the harsh realities of life to that comfortable place they call normality.”

    Women who experiencing homelessness also have the same physical health concerns as women in the general population, but these are less commonly considered within homelessness services. For example, it is essential that women experiencing homelessness still have access to early detection and screening services, including cervical smear testing and breast cancer screening, as well as age-related health checks.

    At St Mungo’s, our colleagues never give up on the people we support. Frontline workers like Michelle spend a great deal of time building trust and working with women to create practical and personal strategies, helping them to move away from the streets safely, and working with them alongside service-based staff throughout the process to ensure a real recovery from homelessness.

    “Today’s a good day and one of the women who doesn’t normally engage with me is eager to talk. Normally I am chasing for this but I have found that leaving a message on a note card is the magic key to start a conversation. It’s brief, but nonetheless we chatted. The foundations for future meetings are there and this makes me smile.

    I wonder how the world sees these girls. The judgements are always hiding under the surface and I wonder if they knew their stories if they would they feel any different. The nature of the job means that frustrations constantly play with my emotions, as no matter what we do it never feels like it is enough. But the reality is that we are all doing something and we will continue to support these women, no matter what.”

    If you’re concerned about someone you’ve seen sleeping rough, please contact StreetLink to refer an individual to local homelessness support services.

    St Mungo’s responds to homeless death statistics

    Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has responded to new data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), showing that an estimated 741 people experiencing homelessness died in 2021.

    This represents an 8% rise on the previous year when an estimated 688 people lost their lives and takes the number up to almost pre-pandemic levels. The data covers England and Wales.

    St Mungo’s Chief Executive Emma Haddad said: “Every single death of a person experiencing homelessness is an absolute tragedy. Each one these people was someone’s child, sister or brother – all with their own hopes and dreams.

    “Health and homelessness are inextricably linked and it is an awful reality that sleeping rough causes chronic illness and can lead to premature death, with the average age of death for someone living on the streets being around 30 years earlier than the general population.

    “The Government’s recently published Rough Sleeping Strategy has a strong focus on  prevention and tackling the root cause of homelessness.

    “Today’s data shows yet again why it is so important we implement this to prevent people from ending up on our streets in the first place, especially as winter approaches, the current cost of living crisis worsens, and more people are facing losing their homes.

    “St Mungo’s will continue to do everything we can to prevent street homelessness, and support those who have ended up sleeping rough to spend as little time as possible on the streets.”

    Today’s data shows between 1 January and 31 December 2021:

    • Almost two in five deaths of homeless people were related to drug poisoning in 2021 (259 estimated deaths)
    • Of the total number 99 people ended their own life
    • There were estimated to have been 26 deaths involving coronavirus, twice the number estimated in 2020
    • London had the highest numbers of deaths registered in 2021, with 154 people dying in the capital
    • The mean age of death of people who were homeless is much lower than the general population being 45.4 for men and 43.2 for women.

    In this data someone is defined as homeless if they have been sleeping rough or using emergency or temporary accommodation at or around the time of death.

    The statistics are based on the year of death registration – because of death registration delays, around half of these deaths occurred in previous years.

    St Mungo’s responds to Autumn Statement

    Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s has responded to the Government’s autumn statement announced today (17 November 2022).

    Among the measures announced by the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, the Government pledged:

    • a 10.1% rise in benefits in line with September’s inflation figure from April
    • to raise the benefit cap in line with inflation next year
    • to extend the Household Support Fund for another year
    • support for energy bills to remain in place, with the cap rising to £3,000 after April 2023, and targeted interventions for households on means-tested benefits, pensioner households and those with disabilities
    • to increase the National Living Wage from £9.50 to £10.42 per hour

    However, there was no commitment to increasing housing benefit, despite the fact that rents are rising at their fastest levels in 16 years – reducing the availability of affordable housing.

    Reacting to the statement, St Mungo’s Chief Executive Emma Haddad said: “We welcome the measures announced today aimed at supporting the most vulnerable members of society.

    “Increasing benefits in line with inflation and raising the benefit cap were both recommendations made by the Kerslake Commission on Homelessness and Rough Sleeping, and will help many of our clients weather the current financial storm.

    “However we do have concerns that people who are currently employed in low-wage jobs may be put at greater risk as many of the support packages announced will not be accessible to them. And there is no additional help for those facing rising rents.

    “We know from our clients that things are really difficult right now and many are struggling to pay their bills. There remains the very real threat that the cost of living crisis will push more people into homelessness this winter.

    “The Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy’s focus on preventing homelessness is more important now than ever.  And St Mungo’s will continue to work tirelessly with our partners in local and national government to stop people becoming homeless, and support those who already have.”

    A new permanent Chief Executive has been appointed for leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s.

    Emma Haddad joins the organisation following a rigorous recruitment process which took place over the summer.

    She brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge in supporting people who have been displaced and marginalised, joining from central Government where she was the Director General for Asylum and Protection.

    Joanna Killian, chair of St Mungo’s Board of Trustees, said: “I am delighted that Emma has been appointed as our permanent Chief Executive.

    “Her knowledge and experience in supporting people who have been displaced and marginalised is very relevant to our role here in supporting the most vulnerable in society and she has a clear determination to end homelessness. We all welcome her to the organisation.”

    Dr Haddad said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining St Mungo’s. Its mission is hugely important to me and it will be a privilege to lead the organisation.

    “In the current economic climate, the services and support we offer will be more vital than ever. I look forward to working with colleagues across St Mungo’s and with partners in the shared aim of ending homelessness.”

    Ms Killian also thanked Rebecca Sycamore, who took over as the charity’s interim Chief Executive in May following the sudden death of Steven Douglas CBE, who had been Chief Executive since July 2020.

    Ms Sycamore returns to her substantive role of Executive Director of Strategy and Development.

    Dr Haddad begins her first week with the organisation on Monday 14 November.

    The position of CEO of St Mungo’s was advertised in June, and following a rigorous selection process over the summer, the successful candidate was informed and accepted the position in early September.

    Find out more about Emma Haddad here

    You can read about Steve Douglas CBE here

    You can read about Rebecca Sycamore here

    Celebrating our partnership with Fieldfisher

    Since 2019, law firm Fieldfisher has supported St Mungo’s to tackle challenges facing people experiencing homelessness. In this blog, we take a look back at some key moments in the partnership and celebrate all we have achieved by working together to end homelessness.

    From the beginning of our three year partnership, Fieldfisher employees were keen to leverage their skills to help St Mungo’s clients in their recovery from homelessness. Digital exclusion disproportionately impacts people who have experience of homelessness, and this digital divide was made even greater when many things moved online during the pandemic. Fieldfisher recognised this and helped our clients to learn basic IT skills, by running IT courses for clients at St Mungo’s Recovery College. These courses aimed to teach essential digital skills in a safe and supportive environment, as well as offering more advanced skills such as web development.

    More recently, Fieldfisher collaborated with Baker McKenzie to provide pro bono support to St Mungo’s. Both firms worked closely with teams at St Mungo’s to identify areas of the law that homelessness specialists found unclear and difficult to navigate. The law firms then designed, wrote and built an online legal toolkit to enable staff to gain a better understanding of laws that relate to our work and clients. The toolkit itself is not exhaustive, nor a supplement for independent legal advice, but instead serves as a solid and accessible starting point to support staff in their roles and to help clients realise their rights. The toolkit, which has been two years in the making, launched in September and will continue to be updated in future outside as part of both law firms pro-bono commitments.

    Reflecting on the partnership over the past three years, Fieldfisher’s Corporate Responsibility Manager, Millie Hawes said:

    “Global crises of recent years have disproportionately affected people who are homeless. We have often felt powerless over how to help, but working with St Mungo’s has allowed us to donate our skills and time, as well as our money. The digital inclusion workshops paved the way for non-legal pro bono programmes, and showed how law firms can partner with other organisations to make the law, and justice, more accessible.”

    Jay Hunt, Head of Partnerships at St Mungo’s added:

    “Our partnership with Fieldfisher is a shining example of the type of strategic relationships we want to build with our partners. Every step of the way, Fieldfisher considered how they could add value to our work by using their skills and resources as a business to address specific issues facing our clients and staff. On top of this, despite several lockdowns throughout the duration of the partnership, their drive and enthusiasm for our work was unwavering, resulting in them raising over £100,000 for St Mungo’s.”

    We work with companies from a huge range of sectors to support people who’ve experienced homelessness or rough sleeping. Together we can end homelessness. Find out here how your organisation can get involved and help.

    StreetLink: everything you need to know

    As one of the largest providers of outreach services in England, we go out morning, noon and night to meet people who are sleeping rough. We work with our clients to gain their trust and offer them routes out of homelessness.

    For many, meeting a member of our outreach team is the first step on their journey to recovery. Often, it is members of the public like you who make these meetings possible.

    What is StreetLink and how does it work?

    “StreetLink will process your alert and pass it on to the local outreach team, so they can go out and look for the person.

    StreetLink is a referral service that can be used by anyone who wants to help someone sleeping rough. Ellie is a volunteer shift leader, and tells us more about it.

    If you want to help someone you’ve seen sleeping rough, but don’t know what to do, StreetLink is a simple way to take action. Send an alert on our website, providing the exact location of where you have seen someone sleeping.

    “If the outreach team is able to find someone, they’ll do an assessment to see what their situation is, connect them with local services, and work to help them move off the streets for good.

    “StreetLink London is a self-referral phone line, for people who are currently rough sleeping in London.

    We connect people who are rough sleeping with the local outreach team and can signpost the caller to local organisations, such as local housing options, where they can make a homeless application. We can also direct the caller to day centres, where they can get food, showers and advice during the day time. 
     
    If you are concerned for someone rough sleeping, you can use the StreetLink website to create an alert for the local outreach team.
     

    There have been a few times when someone has made an alert after going through the StreetLink process themselves. They’ve been helped by someone making a StreetLink alert for them, and want to do the same for someone else. So it’s great to see that it works!”

    What makes a good StreetLink alert?

    “When making an alert, we need a really clear location. You might identify a nearby building or street. Some people use what3words, which breaks an area down into 3×3 meter squares, which is especially useful if someone’s rough sleeping in a forest or woodland area.

    “The outreach teams who respond to our alerts get lots of referrals to attend, so it makes it easier for them to reach as many people as possible.

    “Describing what the person is wearing and any standout characteristics is helpful too.”

    You can make a StreetLink alert by visiting their website

    Please remember that StreetLink is not an emergency response service. If someone requires urgent medical attention, call 999.

    How can I get involved?

    “We’re always on the lookout for volunteers on the telephone line. Especially as we head towards winter time, when we tend to get very busy. We have about 40 volunteers at the moment, but we want to get back to where we were pre-pandemic, when we had around 80. It would help us to reach so many more people.

    “Most of our work is volunteer led, and we’re so proud of the work they do. When people first come in, they might be a bit nervous about having to get on the phone. But we provide lots of training and listen in to their first calls, so that if there’s any difficult situations, they know what to do.  It’s great to see our volunteers grow more confident and feel that they’re making a difference.

    “Last year, we nominated five volunteers for The Marsh Awards, which celebrates the achievements of volunteers across the UK, and all five won! It was a really rewarding moment for the whole team.”

    If you’re interested in volunteering with our London-based StreetLink team, and would like more information, click here.

    Homelessness and men’s mental health

    Homelessness and mental health are issues that intersect. Last year, 69% of clients who were assessed needed support for their mental health.

    Having a friend or family member to speak to helps, but for men, stigmas around mental health can make it more challenging to open up.

    That’s why our Bristol Floating Mental Health Support team have set up Men’s Group – an informal, weekly group where men can sit, chat and make friends.

    Jamie, James and Simon share what the group’s been up to, and how we tackling the issue of homelessness and mental health.

    Supporting men's mental health

    Jamie: Mental Health Floating Support Worker

    “As a Mental Health Floating Support Worker, I support around 17 clients across Bristol.”

    “Lots of the people I work with have lived lonely lives. Whilst there are women’s groups for clients who want to chat and share experiences, I couldn’t find anything similar for men.

    “That’s why I decided to start a Men’s Group. I wanted to create an informal space where men could come and meet new people, chat, play games and listen to music – an escape from their daily stresses.

    “At the time we were still in the middle of the pandemic, and couldn’t host groups inside. But it was summer, so we decided to go to the park, meet at the bandstand, and have a BBQ. And that’s where it all began!

    “Our clients really enjoyed coming every week, and with summer coming to an end, we needed a sheltered space to meet. We didn’t have a big budget to work with, so the Putting Down Roots team offered to share their wonderful garden enclosure with us, and we’ve been meeting here ever since.

    “I think the group’s been successful because we’re quite small, which makes it less intimidating, and easier for people to get to know each other. There’s no set format or pressure for people to talk about anything – they can just sit here and chill.”

    “Because a lot of the men who come to the group have shared similar experiences, they’ve actually become really supportive of each other, which is amazing. Someone might be going through a rough patch, and if someone else has had a similar experience in the past, then they can empathise. It’s a very non-judgmental group – we’re all here for each other.

    “Last year, we’d planned to host a Christmas party inside, with a pool tournament and food, but unfortunately we had to cancel due to Covid. I’m hoping we can put on something similar this year.”

    “I have something to look forward to”

    Simon, St Mungo's client

    “I really needed something like this, you know, coming out of the pandemic. My mental health suffered, like loads of others. I live in a flat by myself and it was very isolating and lonely.

    “I heard about the group through a member of Jamie’s team, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve been coming for over a month now and it’s been really good. I struggle with fatigue, so I’m proud that I’ve managed to keep coming.

    “It’s the only thing I’ll leave my local area for, but it’s nice to get a change of scene and have something to look forward to.”

    “As we get to know and trust each other, the conversation takes on a life of itself. It goes a bit deeper sometimes, but often it’s just light hearted.”

    “It takes your mind off things”

    James, St Mungo's client

    “After my brother died, I had a really tough year.

    “St Mungo’s have helped me keep going with weekly bereavement counselling, and activities like the men’s group. I’m also taking part in English and Maths classes at their Recovery College.

    “I love meeting new people – and everyone here is really friendly. Having your own space to chat, have a laugh and play games takes your mind off things. I’m always recommending the group to others.”

    “In the past, I used drink and drugs, but St Mungo’s have helped me to gain a new outlook on life. To tell the truth, I don’t think I’d be here without them.”

    What do our clients think of us?

    Our recent Client Feedback Survey shows that 93% of people we work with are satisfied with the support they receive.

    Providing clients with regular opportunities to feedback is key to developing efficient and effective services that meet their needs. The 592 responses we received will help us to form a clearer picture of what we are doing well as an organisation, and identify key areas where we can improve.

    What our clients say

    “Since I got here, my health has got much better. I feel very happy, and there is always food to eat when I need it.”

    “Intensive support when needed was great, and they went above and beyond what any other service would do.”

    “The biggest credit to the service is the wonderful, kind and helpful staff I interact with daily. I have never met an unkind staff member.”

    “You’ve made me feel cared for, and given me a great opportunity to get back on my feet. Thank you so much.”

    Client feedback in numbers

    0 %
    would describe staff as “caring, supportive and respectful”
    0 %
    agree we help them to make positive changes in their life
    0 %
    are satisfied that their needs are understood

    Introducing our winter appeal

    Sleeping rough in winter can kill. But one night of safety can change someone’s life and take them off the streets for good.

    That’s why we’ve launched our new campaign, Last Night on the Streets. It aims to highlight the dangers of rough sleeping, and the hard work that our outreach teams do to get people off the streets and into safety.

    Crucially, it will help us to raise the vital funds we need to meet growing demands for support – with the need for our help expected to rise as the cost of living crisis deepens.

    We want our campaign to reach as many people as possible, so that we can gain more wonderful supporters like you, who can help us through this busy time, and bring us closer to our goal of ending homelessness in England for good.

    A glimpse of life on the streets

    As part of the winter appeal, we’ve created a TV advert that provides a glimpse into a person’s journey from the streets and into accommodation, showing you the harsh elements they endure night after night, and the hope that meeting our outreach team can give.

    The life expectancy of someone sleeping rough is just 45 for men, and 41 for women. Last year, our outreach teams supported over 5,000 people. In order to help as many people as possible, we need more supporters like you, who can make tonight someone’s last night on the streets.

    Learn more

     

     

     

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