Taking on a challenge to help end homelessness

    Each year we’re amazed by the supporters who choose to raise money for St Mungo’s by taking on their own challenge, raising essential funds to help support our services. Will Potter, Events and Partnerships Officer, reflects on the fantastic achievements of our 2018 fundraising alumni and suggests some ways that you can get inspired to take on your own challenge for our 50th Anniversary next year.

    Every year the St Mungo’s events team put on our creative hats and try to come up with new fundraising challenges. From running and cycling, to abseiling and video gaming, we try and keep up with new trends to offer our supporters the best event experience possible. Our creative inspiration is often outdone, however, by the daring imagination of our supporters.

    In 2018 we’ve seen some truly astonishing achievements from fundraisers who have had an idea and ran (or cycled, parachuted, driven, kayaked, or wing-walked) with it.

    Incredible feats of endurance

    The year kicked off with Morgan, Elliot and Finn signing up to race a Tuk Tuk 3,000 kilometres across India over the course of 14 days. Jasmine decided to get around on her own two feet, signing up to run one of the great wonders, the Great Wall of China marathon.

    Others chose to rise above planet Earth and take to the skies. Emily and Nerys skydived out of a plane at 14,000 feet and brave Sue has pledged to go one step further, and walk on the wings of a plane travelling at 130 miles per hour.

    We’ve also seen some incredible feats of endurance. Agriculture company, Syngenta, organised a 24 hour football match; Darren and Paul kayaked the length of the River Thames, clocking up an incredible 150 miles in six days; and Gerald and Cathy entered the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race, paddling a total 125 miles with a lot of lugging the heavy canoe between locks.

    Epic and outlandish challenges

    Last week was the end of a seven week long, 650 mile journey for Leo Manning-Farnon, a bricklayer from North East London, who has been carrying a 25 kilogram bag of sand across the land from London to John O’Groats in the far north of Scotland.

    Leo’s family first let us know about his epic plans and ambitious fundraising target at the beginning of the year. The audacity of the challenge was matched by Leo’s determination; his daily vlogs and inspirational journey has attracted press coverage and donations from all over the UK to support our work.

    Successfully smashing targets

    Our biggest team and most successful fundraisers this year are a 30 strong group called WHOOSH who are based in South London. They are an amazing collective of keen cyclists who take on a five day cycling challenge each year in aid of two charities; one local and one international.

    They asked their sponsors to help them raise £10,000 – the equivalent cost of refurbishing two kitchens where our clients who have experienced homelessness can learn to cook. After cycling 300 miles from Lancaster to Ayr, they smashed their fundraising target, exceeding an incredible £12,000. WHOOSH!

    Get inspired, get involved

    We hope these daring tales of endeavour will inspire a future generation of fundraisers. St Mungo’s is turning 50 years old next year and we need the help, creativity, and dedication of our supporters more than ever. Run 50 kilometres, cycle 50 metres, swim 50 lengths…what will you choose?

    Check out our current challenge events or get in touch with Will at events@mungos.org to receive a free fundraising pack and find out more about how you can plan your own fundraising event.

    Our #16Days of Action against domestic abuse

    This Sunday 25 November 2018 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and marks the start of 16 Days of Action against domestic abuse. Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager, explains how homelessness and domestic abuse are linked and how St Mungo’s is taking action.

    Women experience homelessness differently to men. In particular, gender based violence can be both a cause and a consequence of homelessness. Shockingly, half the women in St Mungo’s accommodation that have slept rough tell us that they have experienced violence or abuse from a partner or family member.

    As Women’s Strategy Manager, my role is to improve the situations of the women we work with who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

    We’re making a stand for women

    A safe and secure home is the first step to recovery, so we must do all we can to keep women safe from abuse. That’s why St Mungo’s is proud to sign the Make a Stand pledge from the Chartered Institute of Housing. Developed in partnership with Women’s Aid and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance, the pledge is a commitment to support all our staff and clients experiencing domestic abuse.

    You may have read our recently published report from the University of York about the hidden harm of women sleeping rough. Women on the streets are exposed to frightening risks of sexual harassment, abuse and violence, but hiding from harm can also mean that they are hidden from help.

    The 16 Days give us the chance to us to bring hidden issues to light. Across the organisation, we’ll be having honest conversations about abuse and relationships and connecting people with specialist support.

    The United Nations’ theme for this year’s campaign is #HearMeToo. We must make sure that the global movement against harassment and abuse also reaches women who are homeless and hidden. We need action in government and in homelessness services to #MakeHerSeen.

    The women we work with are blooming strong

    It’s important that we take domestic abuse seriously, and understand the harms and risks. But as Women’s Strategy Manager, that’s just one part of my role.

    The best part of my job is celebrating our women. Women face added stigma and shame while they are homeless. But that’s not how we see our female clients. We see women who have survived, who are strong and determined.

    That’s why we’re taking part in the Blooming Strong campaign in our services this year, presenting a variety of women with a single flower, and celebrating in other ways such as planting flowers, creating sculptures and making time to chat over a cup of tea. The campaign is a celebration of the strength of women, including those who have survived gender based violence and abuse.

    I can’t wait to see how our creative staff and clients will celebrate. Look out for more updates on our social media channels during the #16Days of Action.

    Survivors of domestic abuse need a home for good

    Everybody deserves a home where they can be safe from harm. Our Home for Good campaign report highlights that being forced to flee violence or abuse is one of a number of reasons why people struggle to move on from homelessness.

    It’s vital that specialist support is in place so that women can leave the streets behind and we can end rough sleeping for good. During this 16 days of activism, why not sign our #HomeForGood open letter and call on the government to give homelessness services the funding they need.

    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

    Why it’s time for the NHS to step up and play its part in ending rough sleeping

    Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, explains why St Mungo’s, together with more than 20 homelessness and health organisations, have joined forces to urge NHS England to spend more on specialist health interventions for people experiencing homelessness.

    Rough sleeping has more than doubled since 2010. Spiralling housing costs, increasing insecurity for private renters and cuts to services that prevent homelessness have all played their part. But rough sleeping is not just a housing problem, it’s a health problem too.

    One person dies every day while sleeping rough

    We face a situation where on average one person dies every day while sleeping rough or in emergency accommodation and many more have to cope every day with serious health conditions. Of the people seen sleeping rough in London in 2017-18, 50% had mental health problems, 43% were alcohol users and 40% were drug users. An estimated 46% had physical health conditions.

    Complex needs like these are mutually reinforcing. Without targeted interventions and support, many people end up stuck in a cycle of homelessness, poor heath, and – sadly too often – premature death.

    People can get stuck in a vicious cycle

    The issue of homeless health has gained increased attention in recent months. Over the summer the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy contained expectations for the NHS to be spending £30 million on health services for people who sleep rough. The Chief Executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, also made similar promises that the needs of people sleeping rough would be addressed in the upcoming Long Term Plan for the NHS.

    This attention is welcome and long overdue. Health problems, particularly mental health problems, are often the reason why people are stuck sleeping rough. Poor mental health is an obstacle to engaging with services that can help move people off the street, while at the same time being homeless prevents people getting the mental health support they desperately need. This increases their exposure to the dangers of life on the street, and as a consequence, also increases their risk of early death.

    Urgent and emergency care costs are high

    The human costs of neglecting to address these issues are severe, but so are the financial costs. Estimates suggest the costs of treating homelessness for hospital inpatient and A&E admissions alone run to £2,100 per person per year, compared to £525 among the general population. In 2010 the total cost of urgent or emergency care for people sleeping rough was estimated to be £85 million per year, but this represents only a small fraction of the total costs to health services. The current figure is likely to be significantly higher.

    Without a conscious, proactive effort by the NHS and wider social services these barriers, and the resulting poor and costly health outcomes, will continue to persist, in turn costing core and acute services more in the process.

    The Long Term Plan is an opportunity for change

    The Long Term Plan is being developed by the NHS to cover the next decade of service delivery, and will be published later this year. It presents a vital opportunity to reduce the appalling health inequalities which exist for some of the most vulnerable and unwell people in our society.

    The £30 million promised by the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy is an insignificant amount in the context of the wider costs associated with homelessness. That’s why St Mungo’s, together with 20 other organisations across the homelessness and health sectors, want to see at least this amount pledged every year to develop specialist services for people who sleep rough, delivered in partnership with local authorities.

    Specialist interventions – such as dedicated mental health teams working with people on the street, or tailored services to increase access to general practice – can prevent admissions to acute service like A&E further down the line. When delivered in partnership with local agencies and homelessness services, these initiatives can be an essential in helping people off the streets too.

    We hope the contents of the Long Term Plan will build on the real momentum we have seen on the issue of homeless health in recent months.

    St Mungo’s, together with more than 20 homelessness and health organisations – including Homeless Link and The Queen’s Nursing Institute – wrote earlier this week to the Chief Executive of NHS England, calling for more action to address the appalling health outcomes faced by people sleeping rough. You can read our joint policy briefing, developed with Homeless Link, here.

    We campaign for an end to homelessness, making sure the voices of our clients are heard by decision-makers at every level. To join us and speak out for people experiencing homelessness, become a campaigner today.

    Why the budget 2018 is a missed opportunity for ending rough sleeping

    Following the announcement of the autumn 2018 budget, Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, analyses what the Government’s plans mean for those sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness.

    Amongst talk of an ‘end of austerity’ budget, the Chancellor yesterday delivered one that was really a missed opportunity from the perspective of homelessness.

    It had been a positive summer, with the Government listening to the homelessness sector and deciding to keep funding for supported housing in the welfare system, as well as publishing a rough sleeping strategy which contained a variety of interventions to stop the scandalous rise in the number of people sleeping rough across the country.

    However, the Budget failed to build on these developments, and did not contain measures which will deliver on the Government’s commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022, and end it all together by 2027.

    There were bits of positive news to be found which – if delivered with homelessness in mind – could contribute to helping people off the streets.

    A new mental health crisis service

    On mental health, there was the news that a new mental health crisis service will be developed, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. Given the scale of the mental health crisis on the streets and the difficulty many have accessing support, this is particularly welcome.

    The service will include comprehensive mental health support in every major A&E, more mental health specialist ambulances, and more crisis cafes. We want to see this service work with people sleeping rough who have mental health problems, providing support on the street if necessary.

    More money for the NHS

    However, we know that prevention is always better than cure. We want to see fewer people getting to crisis point and helped much earlier before conditions worsen.

    People sleeping rough have much higher rates not only of mental illness, but of physical health problems too, and shockingly high levels of mortality. So the cash injection for the NHS – £20bn over the next five years – is desperately needed and clearly welcome. But we know that without a clear plan, these kinds of funding injections often don’t make their way through to helping the most vulnerable. That is why we want the upcoming NHS Long Term Plan to earmark some of these funds for specialist services for people sleeping rough, to ensure their needs are not forgotten.

    Funding to address problems in Universal Credit roll-out

    Universal Credit roll-out has had a particularly damaging impact on people sleeping rough, which is why the £1bn announced in the budget to address problems with roll-out is welcome. These problems include large deductions being taken from Universal Credit awards to repay Advance Payments and other debts such as rent arrears. We are also seeing increases in arrears for service charge in supported housing, as Universal Credit no longer allows claimants living in supported housing to request direct payments to their landlord for the likes of gas and electricity.

    The complexity of the new system means that many struggle to navigate it and make a claim without support. The cumulative effect of this is to make it even harder for people to move on from homelessness.

    We want this new funding used to address these serious problems. However, in order to stop vulnerable claimants being pushed further into destitution, we still want to see a pause in the roll-out to give time for the process to be fixed.

    But not enough to end rough sleeping…

    Despite these positive notes, the overall feeling is that this was a missed opportunity. With no funding measures on rough sleeping specifically, and no plans to tackle the key drivers of homelessness, there is still much more to do to get close to the Government ambition to ending rough sleeping by 2027.

    We need to see further commitments to increase social housing, strengthen private renting and funding for homelessness services for people to find, and keep, a home for good. We will be working to build support for these changes in the months ahead. With the numbers sleeping rough continuing to rise, we cannot afford to delay.

    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. Sign Kevin’s open letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

    My history is my heritage

    In celebration of Black History Month, we have been sharing the diverse stories of our staff and clients. Grace Hicks-Tingle – Bristol Recovery College Apprentice and Black, Asian and Minority, Ethnic (BAME) Network lead – shares how she discovered more about her origins.

    “My parents came to England in 1956 and 1957 from Jamaica. The British Government had promised everyone a better life in England.

    I am part of the ‘Windrush generation’

    They arrived in England on the Empire Windrush. The Empire Windrush first arrived at Tilbury Docks on 22 June 1948 carrying 492 Caribbean passengers. This historic event would mark the beginning of the mass immigration movement in the UK. By 1961 an estimated 17,200 people of West Indian origin has been born in the UK; we are now known as the Windrush generation.

    My heritage goes beyond Jamaica

    My history and heritage does not just start and finish in Jamaica, the home of my parents. I discovered that my grandfather was born in Jerusalem and is known as a Falasha Jew; it is said that they were the first Black Jews of dark skin. He ended up in Jamaica after the First World War, where he met my grandmother.

    On my father’s side, my great, great, great grandfather was a slave owner in the parish of St Ann’s, Jamaica. He was called Lord McTingle and he originated from Scotland. All his slaves were called McTingle. I’m not sure when they dropped the ‘Mc’ from my family surname, but my Dad’s birth was registered as a Tingle without the ‘Mc’.

    My history is my heritage

    To me, heritage is not just the colour of my skin; it includes the way my history began. There’s a saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ – and I think it’s equally valid to say ‘never judge a person’s heritage by the colour of their skin’. It is deeper and more varied than you think.”

    Bristol Recovery College is a pioneering, inclusive learning programme, based on the principle that learning can be a transformative experience. Set in our New Street Hub, in the heart of St Jude’s, we offer a safe, inclusive and creative learning space underpinned by our recovery service ethos. All our courses are free and designed, delivered and attended by St Mungo’s clients, staff and volunteers. Courses are also open to the general public. You can find out more here.

    I call myself a citizen of the world

    In celebration of Black History Month, we have been sharing the diverse stories of our staff and clients. Shaaban, Deputy Manager of Islington Mental Health Service, explains how his own experiences of homelessness have helped shape his approach to supporting people with complex needs such as those recovering from drug and alcohol use or mental and physical health problems. Shaaban focuses on individual strengths and inspires people to believe that their recovery really is possible.

    Many people think about people who are homeless in terms of what their needs are, what is wrong with them. But I believe that we should be thinking about what they are good at. Everyone has a story, and everyone has achieved something in their lives.

    I call myself a citizen of the world, a global citizen. My dad was a Tanzanian diplomat so I’ve travelled around a bit; I started primary school in Beijing and lived in the Sudan, so I speak a bit of Arabic. I was also in the Tanzanian army for about two and a half years. But my own story also involves personal experience of sleeping rough on the streets of London.

    I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station

    For me, one of the worst things about sleeping rough was being physically abused. In the 90s, I used to sleep on the Strand or near Victoria station in London. It got busy around there, especially at night. Sometimes people got drunk and violent, and would attack and even urinate on people sleeping rough. I was also singled out by some other rough sleepers because of my race.

    After three months on the streets, an outreach worker gave me details of a St Mungo’s hostel in Clapham. I went and they checked me in the same day. I slept in a bed that night.

    That was the beginning of my journey to recovery. I was at the St Mungo’s hostel for about six months, and then moved on to another hostel in Soho for nine months. After that I went through rehab twice, the first time in 2000, and the second time in 2005.

    I started an apprenticeship

    During my second and final stay in rehab, the manager there suggested that I train as a support worker, so I started an apprenticeship.

    I wanted to turn my own painful experiences into something positive, so after finishing my training, I decided to specialise in mental health and substance use. I have a degree and qualifications in mental health, psychology and counselling.

    I’ve worked for St Mungo’s for almost a decade now. It’s an inspiring organisation to work for, because we don’t stop at giving people a roof over their heads. We address the underlying reasons why people become homeless in the first place.

    I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible

    My role is certainly challenging, but the thing that puts a smile on my face is getting to know my clients, and seeing the transition that they make.

    People are always asking me about my hat, because I never take it off! I tell them, when people get married, they wear a wedding ring to represent the commitment that they’ve made. My hat represents a moment of great change in my life, a moment when I committed to my own recovery, and to helping others to recover.

    A lot of my clients experienced feelings of failure, shame and guilt when they were sleeping rough. People often turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate against the pain of these emotions. I know from first-hand experience that recovery is possible, with the right help. I’m glad that telling my story helps people to believe that.

    Celebrating our Diversity

    As this week marks the start of Black History Month, Amy White, Head of Client Involvement, Diversity and Inclusion, reflects on some of the activities that took place across our offices last month for Diversity Day.

    The idea behind Diversity Day is to raise awareness, share and learn from each other and celebrate our differences so everyone at St Mungo’s feels valued for who they are.

    Last year our first ever Diversity Day was a huge success with 300 staff, clients and volunteers getting involved. This year we wanted to make the celebrations bigger and better than ever.

    Staff and clients organised activities at our services across the South and South West. We also hosted three events at our head office, one of our large hostels in London and our Recovery College in Bristol.

    A celebration of who we are

    It was great to share our cultural heritage, identity, skills and talents with others, getting involved with art workshops, live music, poetry and much more. We also had an impressive array of foods from around the world and stalls from each of our seven Diversity Networks.

    Throughout the day we held a series of insightful talks. A range of experts spoke on issues including tackling hate crime, race equality, improving the housing sector’s response to domestic abuse and the reform of the Gender Equality Act and clients also shared their personal experiences.

    Our strength lies in our diversity

    Diversity and inclusion is something we are committed to in our work every day. However, it was fantastic to have a dedicated day to focus on these values and highlight how important they are to us.

    We believe having diversity of thought and experiences makes us more innovative and better able to meet the different needs of our clients. It also ensures people feel valued, respected and able to be their best selves at work.

    Engaging staff and clients

    I’ve had some great feedback from the day, including from Pragna – former Deputy Chair of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Network (BAME) Network – who said “the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too.

    the diversity initiative at St Mungo’s has made such a positive impact on my life, that I have continued to carry it forward not just in my professional life, but in my personal life too

    “Being involved with the Networks gave me confidence, built my skills and thankfully opened my eyes to my own judgements and misconceptions, as well as providing a safe space for open dialogue.”

    We wanted the day to have a lasting legacy and encouraged all staff and clients to commit to one action to continue to promote inclusion. I look forward to seeing how people put this into practice over the next year and beyond.

    St Mungo’s was highly commended for the best diversity and inclusion initiative at the CIPD People Management Awards 2018 and has been nominated for the Personnel Today Awards 2018 Diversity & Inclusion – Public Sector Award. Find out more about how our commitment to diversity shapes our organisational values here.

    Developing a career in the homelessness sector

    Sheila Akao-Okeng, Housing First Worker for the Tower Hamlets Street Outreach Response Team, explains how St Mungo’s approach to recruitment helped her develop her passion for helping people sleeping rough into a career in the homelessness sector.

    My journey at St Mungo’s started as an Administrator in the Volunteer Services team. I had previously worked for an International Development charity, and loved my job, but was aware of the rise in people sleeping rough in London and keen to do something to help tackle this. The Administrator role at St Mungo’s gave me the perfect opportunity to transfer my skills into a sector that was closer to my passion.

    Focusing on transferable skills

    St Mungo’s uses competency based recruitment methods. This means that even if you don’t have specific experience in the homelessness sector, the interview process looks at the transferrable skills that you have got. If you haven’t worked in this sector before, don’t let that discourage you from applying for a role here; you can bring innovation and creativity from outside experience into your role.

    As an Administrator, I learnt more about the homelessness sector through visiting and working alongside services like StreetLink, Outreach teams and Clearing House to support them in their volunteer recruitment processes. The role was the perfect introduction to the breadth and diversity of St Mungo’s work. It also enabled me to start thinking about what my next career step would be.

    Involvement in diversity networks

    St Mungo’s champions personal and career development and, as part of this, I joined the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Network, one of our seven diversity networks. Staff are allocated three days per year to take part in network activities. This enabled me to have time to be involved in the network and build on my communication and influencing skills. I worked alongside the senior leadership team to strive for equal representation of people across all areas of the organisation.

    I learnt a lot as an Administrator and used this experience to apply for a Volunteer Advisor role a year later. This role gave me a new challenge as I spent more time working with our Recovery Colleges to support their volunteers. This role also gave me an opportunity to support our clients to volunteer to aid in their recovery journey.

    Career development at its best

    Throughout my career here, I’ve had so many opportunities to shadow different teams, understand their work and take on tasks. This has helped me to develop numerous transferable skills, meaning two years on, I have been able to apply for a Housing First worker role.

    I love St Mungo’s and I am passionate about the work we do to end homelessness and support people to rebuild their lives. Alongside the diversity networks, St Mungo’s also offers structured and supportive line management, job shadowing, mentoring and coaching opportunities; all of which are aimed at encouraging staff to be the best that they can be in their current role and for a role that they may be working towards.

    We’re always looking for positive people with a can do attitude, consistently professional approach and who are passionate about doing their best to join our team. In return we can offer an exceptional employment deal shaped by what our people tell us they value. Find out more about our available roles in our careers pages.

    Team St Mungo’s climbs Scafell Pike!

    Image: St Mungo's climbs Scafell Pike play

    This September a group of 10 St Mungo’s clients climbed Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak. The challenge was the idea of St Mungo’s client and volunteer Mandy. She explains more about how she wanted to take part to remember all those who have died sleeping rough and to show it is possible to recover from homelessness.

    I’m Mandy, I live in Islington with my dog Skye and I volunteer for St Mungo’s, the charity that helps people experiencing homelessness. On 3 September, I stood on top of the highest peak in England and it was one of the proudest moments of my life.

    St Mungo’s helped me when I was sleeping rough

    Unfortunately, life hasn’t always been this good. Throughout my life, I have struggled with mental illness and, due to family problems, I found myself homeless. In 2014, I slept on the streets for two and a half weeks.

    Living on the streets became so tough that it led to an attempted suicide. However, after visiting a local church for a shower and some food, I was introduced to St Mungo’s. They offered Skye and myself a place in a hostel and I have lived in their accommodation ever since.

    I’ve come a long way since then, which is why last year I had the idea to climb a mountain with other people with experience of homelessness. I wanted to do this to show it is possible to recover from homelessness and to remember all those who aren’t as lucky as me, who have sadly died sleeping rough. Our first mountain in 2017 was Snowdon and this year, we chose Scafell Pike.

    Preparing for the 3,210ft summit

    So on 3 September 2018, we all caught the train from London to Penrith in the Lake District and nervously waited overnight for the next day’s climb.

    We were a mixed group of 10 men and women. Our age, our fitness, our hiking experience and our mental and physical health needs were all varied. But, we had one thing in common; we all knew what it felt to be homeless and we all wanted to prove that it is possible to recover from it. We did this alongside St Mungo’s staff, supporters and volunteers.

    After next to no sleep in our youth hostel in Borrowdale due to nerves and excitement, we set off the next day at 7.30am for Scafell Pike. Walking the streets of London is second nature for lots of us. However rocky, steep terrain is different and it became clear quite quickly that it was going to be a challenge to get us all to the top. In fact, half way up, our guides became concerned that some of the group would not make it.

    Reaching the peak

    It took resilience, determination and a lot of encouragement but every single person reached the peak. I’ll never forget that moment. I’ve spent my life hiding under a rock and suddenly I was on top of the highest one in England!

    What we didn’t realise, was that making our way down was going to be even harder. It took over 12 and a half hours before we arrived back at our youth hostel at 8pm in the evening.

    When my aching body got into bed that night, I thought about how far I’ve come in the last six years and how grateful I am that I now have a place to call home.

     

    Outreach on the streets of Connecticut

    This summer Ed Addison, Case Coordinator for St Mungo’s project Street Impact London, took part in an eye opening two week long cultural exchange programme, travelling to Connecticut in the USA to learn about their approach to supporting people who are sleeping rough. Ed explains more about the homelessness situation in New Haven, the challenges they face conducting outreach and what he has taken away from the experience.

    I travelled to the USA as part of the Transatlantic Practice Exchange run by Homeless Link, the national membership charity for organisations working directly with people who become homeless in England. I applied because I wanted to learn more about different approaches to engaging with and supporting people who are sleeping rough.

    Like much of New England, New Haven, a small city in Connecticut, has seen an unprecedented increase in rough sleeping. With long waiting lists for shelters and few other resources, my hosts, the Columbus House outreach team, have a challenge on their hands.

    Personal experience helps outreach work

    The outreach team explained to me that working with certain groups, like couples and people that don’t engage, can be challenging. They also told me about their own experiences of homelessness and how this helps them in their work.

    Recovery support specialist Stephanie said, “I too have been homeless and lived through this experience myself and used that experience to help others.”

    The team see a lot of people with mental health needs who also use alcohol or drugs, but place an emphasis on recovery.

    Stephanie explained that using lived experience to help others is a crucial part of the recovery programme, saying “[you] show them you can live through this experience and get to the other side.”

    Supporting others is its own reward

    What struck me is that, despite the challenges, the team were so motivated and passionate about their work. Their persistent and flexible approach provides a lifeline to those experiencing homelessness.

    As outreach worker Rhonda explained, “Someone helped me, so I am going to in return… It gives me a sense of satisfaction knowing that I am helping somebody to better their quality of life.”

    Applying learning in London

    The Street Impact London project I work for is all about supporting people who have experience of sleeping rough to sustain their lives off the street. I’ve been inspired by the multi-disciplinary approach in New Haven which brings essential services, including street psychiatry and healthcare, to people directly on the street.

    I’d like to highlight the challenges people have accessing support here in the UK and continue to ensure that St Mungo’s clients are given as much choice and decision making capacity in their recovery journey as possible.

    My time in New Haven has also highlighted the importance of a community based approach to working with rough sleepers. The experience is shaping the way I build relationships with people to encourage positive change in their lives.

    You can listen to an interview Ed conducted with the New Haven outreach team here.

    Find out more about Street Impact here.

    Homeless Link’s Transatlantic Practice Exchange is supported by the Oak Foundation and delivered in partnership with the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Placements are funded for five frontline homelessness staff to spend a fortnight in the United States, exploring different practice topics and sharing this learning on their return.

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