How we’re supporting local authorities to help more people off the streets

    Image: St Mungo's outreach worker with person sleeping rough

    In March 2018 the government announced a targeted £30m fund to support local authorities with high numbers of people sleeping rough help more people off the streets. This funding is welcome, but scaling up and developing new services quickly and effectively can prove challenging. Petra Salva, Director of Outreach Services, and Julie Middleton, Head of Resourcing, explain how St Mungo’s is helping local authorities recruit for and deliver services that really make a difference.

    “We are currently working with 19 commissioners from local authorities,” says Julie. “When they found out they had been successful in applying for the new funds, they realised that some of the services would need to be set up by the end of August. It quickly became clear that we would need to recruit over 90 staff to get these new services up and running ahead of winter.

    “But recruitment naturally slows down in the middle of the summer – and with the hot weather, summer holidays and World Cup football we knew it would be even harder.”

    Effective planning and processes

    Building on St Mungo’s long-standing success in recruiting outreach workers and learning from how other organisations have managed a rapid scale up of their workforce, we set up a talent pool recruitment pilot project, involving colleagues in HR, Services and Business Development.

    Over six weeks, we set up ten open days in London, Bournemouth, Bristol and Brighton to give candidates the opportunity to hear about St Mungo’s, our services and the roles we were recruiting for. The sessions were facilitated by experienced operational staff and, when possible, some of our clients, so candidates could hear about homelessness from people directly involved in delivering and receiving support from our rough sleeping services.

    “Our aim was to give people the opportunity to talk to people who currently work in these services and share the challenges they face, set expectations and hear what they love about their work,” said Petra. “It was also an opportunity for people to ask questions about St Mungo’s and understand more about the work we do.”

    Tailored recruitment campaigns

    Behind the scenes, two dedicated Resourcing Advisors managed the recruitment process. “When you’re quickly responding to a big recruitment campaign, you need effective planning, recruiting methods and processes, as well as technology to help you manage a high volume of applicants,” said Monique, Resourcing Advisor.

    We tailored the recruitment campaigns to ensure we could attract people who had never worked in homelessness services before but who had transferable skills and wanted to actively take part in reducing rough sleeping.

    As a result of the advertising, we received 604 expressions of interest, reviewed 392 job applications and so far we have offered 53 positions. We have another 14 interview days scheduled during September.

    Delivering for clients and partners

    “What I am the most proud of is that we didn’t compromise on our recruitment processes,” said Julie. “We have a robust competency-based recruitment process which includes online tests, written exercises and role plays, in addition to the usual job application and interview.”

    “This means it may take us longer to recruit people and some candidates may drop out along the way, but we know it is a risk worth taking to honor our primary commitment – providing excellent services to our clients and partners.

    “It has proved a great success so far and we are hoping to recruit a further 42 posts during the second phase.”

    “We have learnt a lot from this project and are looking at ways we can build on this experience to further improve our approach in future,” added Petra.

    Find out more about St Mungo’s services models and see our latest vacancies.

    A turning point in the history of rough sleeping?

    As the Government publishes its new Rough Sleeping Strategy, Beatrice Orchard, St Mungo’s Head of Policy, Campaigns and Research, welcomes a good first step, but calls for more work to ensure no one has to sleep rough ever again

    At the last count 4,751 people were sleeping rough on any one night in England. Each one vulnerable to poor health, violence and premature death. No one should have to suffer the damaging long-term consequences of not having a roof over their head or the support they need.

    Rough sleeping is a problem caused by many individual, structural and societal factors. There are no quick solutions, but that doesn’t mean rough sleeping can’t be solved.

    Stopping the scandal

    Shocked, like others at the sharp rise in rough sleeping since 2010, St Mungo’s launched its Stop the Scandal campaign to demand a new cross-government strategy to end rough sleeping.

    The snap General Election in 2017 provided an opportunity to work with other homelessness charities to make rough sleeping a priority for politicians, and both the Conservative and Labour parties committed to end rough sleeping in their election manifestos.

    The Government’s target is to end rough sleeping by 2027 and this week it has published a rough sleeping strategy as a first step towards realising this vision of a country where no one has to sleep rough.

    A good first step

    The strategy is backed by £100 million to fund measures to prevent rough sleeping, help people off the street quickly and support them to settle into a home. It’s a really good first step.

    The Somewhere Safe to Stay pilots will provide more emergency accommodation where people in crisis can have their needs assessed quickly, in safety away from the street. It is vital these services are targeted at those at immediate risk of sleeping rough, as well as those already on the street. Getting this approach right should pave the way for desperately needed reforms, preventing people sleeping rough in the first place.

    The initial investment in health services for people who sleep rough, in support for non-UK nationals and in floating support services to help people hang on to their home is also welcome.

    The challenges ahead

    The big challenge for the Government, and where the strategy falls short, is providing enough stable, safe and affordable housing. According to the evaluation of the Rough Sleepers Initiative in the 1990s, 5,500 people were housed in 3,500 units of permanent accommodation in London alone over a nine year period. Delivering more homes for people with a history of rough sleeping should be an urgent priority for the Government and housing providers.

    The strategy pledges to learn from new evidence in order to scale up and roll out programmes. We will be holding the Government to this pledge. We must move on from pilots and short-term cash injections and towards a long-term plan and investment.

    When it comes to learning lessons, there is a particularly welcome commitment to ensure there are more reviews into the deaths of people who die while rough sleeping to help services improve. It is desperately sad that this commitment is even needed, but the rising number of rough sleeper deaths is another reminder of why this strategy has to mark the turning point in the history of rough sleeping in our country.

    We share the Government’s vision of a future where no one has to sleep rough. But this is only the first step. While the new rough sleeping strategy is important, to meet their target of ending rough sleeping by 2027, the government must set out a plan to stop people becoming homeless in the first place.

    That’s why we’re launching a new campaign in the autumn calling on the government to end rough sleeping for good. Be the first to hear all about it – sign up to campaign with us today.

    “The dignity and respect she deserved”

    Image: Map of London

    St Mungo’s project worker, Shayeena, explains how the Street Impact project enabled her to provide innovative, holistic support for our client June when she really needed it

    Working at St Mungo’s you sometimes receive some difficult phone calls. But last week I got a call that really made me smile.

    I received a voicemail from a man who had recently been bereaved. He said he was a relative of June, and was sorting out her affairs. While he was doing this he came across her old phone, and by looking at the messages she had saved, he came to understand more about June’s story, and the part St Mungo’s had played in helping her rebuild her life after experiencing homelessness. He had called to thank me for all our support for her.

    I met and supported June. She told me she had come to the UK from Ghana in 2002, fleeing domestic violence, on a three-month tourist visa. She overstayed her visa and worked informally, before borrowing a friend’s document to get official work in a supermarket.

    However, in 2010 she was diagnosed with a serious illness and her accommodation and social networks started to break down. She ended up rough sleeping in central London and eventually was picked up and placed into a detention centre.

    At this time St Mungo’s had just established our Street Impact project, which was designed to develop innovative ways to tackle rough sleeping in London. It was the first such project to be funded by a Social Impact Bond (SIB). This meant the running costs were funded by social investors, who were reimbursed by the Greater London Authority on a ‘payments-by-results’ basis.

    This meant we only received payment if it achieved certain agreed outcomes, including reducing rough sleeping and helping people into tenancies, while working with a group of 415 rough sleepers.

    Payment by results meant we were free to innovate in the ways we supported people, and take a much more holistic model in helping them rebuild their lives. June was among those 415 people.

    When we contacted the detention centre about June they told us she had been released but gave us no other information. We eventually tracked her down in north London. We sent her a letter with our phone number and she called us straight away.

    At that point June was 69, depressed, withdrawn, clearly isolated and in need of assistance. While in detention, she had been diagnosed with terminal cancer but was still living on £35 vouchers per week and sharing a room with a lady suffering from post-traumatic stress who would wail throughout the night, meaning that June was getting very little sleep.

    The Home Office eventually granted June exceptional Leave to Remain on medical grounds. Alongside her solicitor, I was able to support June through this stressful experience, and then help June to get a home in a sheltered housing scheme. This was an incredibly complicated process, involving her council’s homelessness team, supported housing team and social services.

    Because of the innovative way we were able to work within Street Impact, however, I could support June with everything from taxi fares to hospital visits, gathering evidence for an appeal and securing donations of furniture. Eventually we were able to establish a support network for June that included medical staff, social workers, the local hospice, a minister from her local church and a St Mungo’s palliative care volunteer.

    We also helped her to stay in contact with her family in Ghana, which had become harder for her as her speech deteriorated. She was 70 by then, not used to computers, and found it hard to speak on the phone. With her consent, I started emailing her family and asked her daughter to send photos of her young granddaughter (who June had never seen) and printed these all out for her and framed a couple so she could keep them in her living room. She was so happy to have these… I remember her laughing with joy and looking at the prints over and over again. In her final years she was treated with dignity and respect that she deserved.

    Much of this would have been impossible under a more conventional outreach model. Despite everything she had been through, I think June managed to trust me and my colleagues and this allowed us to help her.

    Find out more about Street Impact.

     

    A safe, secure future for homeless hostels

    The government’s decision to not go ahead with proposed changes to funding for supported housing is a victory for our #SaveHostels campaign. Robyn Casey, St Mungo’s Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, explains why this is so important and why we now need to secure funding for support costs

    This week the government announced that it will not go ahead with proposed changes to funding for supported housing, including homeless hostels.

    We have campaigned hard to protect funding for these life-saving services over the last two years. Our #Save Hostels campaign focused on this issue, and more than 12,000 people signed our petition calling on the government not to put homeless hostels at risk.

    We’re thrilled that the government has listened to us and our campaigners, and committed to continue using Housing Benefit to fund hostel housing costs.

    Why is it so important to fund housing costs in this way?

    Homeless hostels are a type of supported housing which help people to get back on their feet after a period of crisis as they look towards living independently. They enable people to live in a safe environment, while receiving support to rebuild their lives away from the street.

    Hostels are funded in two ways:

    • residents claim Housing Benefit to pay for the cost of their accommodation
    • the local council provides funding for the support staff who work closely with residents to help them to achieve their goals

    The government had proposed to change the way these services were funded by taking housing costs out of Housing Benefit. Instead, local councils would have been responsible for funding both housing and support costs.

    At St Mungo’s we were very concerned about these proposals. We felt they would have put homeless hostels at serious risk of closure, and left many people without anywhere to turn for support.

    The government stated that using local councils to distribute funding wouldn’t lead to a reduction in the amount of money available to services. This was a welcome reassurance, but our experience with this type of funding told a very different story.

    Funding for the support provided in our services has massively reduced over the past decade, after a ring-fence around this funding was removed. In fact, a report by the National Audit Office found that it has declined by 59 per cent since 2010. (PDF) This has left some services struggling to survive, and funding housing costs in the same way could have been devastating.

    Instead, the government has listened to calls from across the sector and retained funding within Housing Benefit.

    This means homeless hostels will have a stable income and a more secure future. We will continue to be able to invest in improving existing services and developing new ones and, crucially, provide safe places for people to stay and rebuild their lives after sleeping rough.

    What next?

    Increased oversight

    Housing costs within supported housing can be higher than in other rented properties. This is because there is a higher turnover of residents, and additional costs for the maintenance of communal spaces. The government recognises that these additional costs are justified, but would like to increase oversight of the sector to make sure that taxpayer money is being used effectively.

    St Mungo’s would welcome the opportunity to contribute to these plans. We are proud of the services we provide and the support we give our clients, and look forward to working with the government to ensure that the high standards we hold ourselves to is reflected across all services.

    A long term, strategic approach to funding for support

    While the government’s decision on housing costs is very welcome, there is still work to be done to restore funding for support costs. We are pleased that the government has also announced that it will review housing related support to better understand how the system currently works. We look forward to working with them on this issue and demonstrating the need for a secure support system which is fit for the future.

    But there is much more to be done to make sure that everyone has a safe and secure place to live. That’s why we’re launching a new campaign in the autumn calling on the government to end rough sleeping for good. Be the first to hear all about it – sign up to campaign with us today.

    Making London Bridge green

    Victoria has been working at St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots project in London Bridge since 2014. She tells us what the project has achieved and what she’s got out of it herself

    How long have you have been working with Putting Down Roots (PDR) in London Bridge?

    I’ve been working at London Bridge almost from the start in various capacities: firstly as a client in spring 2014, then as sole trader, locum and since last December I’ve been working here full time.

    What does the LDN Bridge project involve?

    We are working with Team London Bridge, the Business Improvement District for the area. We work with them to make areas greener. Not the whole of London Bridge, the council looks after some of the public spaces. But we have about eight sites from Borough High Street leading down to Tower Bridge Road. We’re at the NCP car park opposite the Greenwood Theatre which we also maintain. That was a really interesting project with Joe Swift and Zandra Rhodes. We  have a hub on Melior Street where we do a bit of training with our clients and we’ve got a small scale allotment. Then there’s Snowfields Primary School where I teach workshops. Through these workshops we have a link to Borough Market and I grow veg with the children for the Borough Market young marketeers event..

    What challenges have you faced?

    The challenge is that in such a densely populated area we must deal with plant damage and litter. As a project we are looking at training up people to go and work in gardening jobs. The chances are the jobs will be with the council or in that sort of environment. So this is a perfect training ground. They learn a lot about keeping themselves safe and members of the public safe. The urban area isn’t a massive challenge. As long as we’ve got permission to green up the space, we just get to it as long as we’ve got good soil and a water supply.

    What are you proudest of?

    Personally I am most proud of my young marketeers. Though it’s not really in my job spec, I get a lot of enjoyment from it. The children are so enthusiastic and learn and retain so well. They’re just enthused by growing vegetables and selling. I feel like I’m bringing something to inner city children that they might not necessarily get anywhere else. A lot of them live in flats around here, they don’t have gardens or even balconies.

    Regarding the project in this area, I am proudest of how we are managing to maintain green spaces in such an urban area. And doing that alongside some really fantastic people who just fell on hard times I guess. It’s wonderful when you can work alongside someone and they start to turn up earlier and earlier in the morning.They start to take ownership of specific places that they enjoy working at. That’s why I do this job.

    Have you got any nice feedback from members of the public?

    Oh gosh yeah, all the time. Whenever we’re out people will pass by and comment about how beautiful things are. Or they remember when it wasn’t such a green area. It’s lovely.

    Read about how Victoria was honoured by the Royal Horticultural Society

    We’d like to thank the teams at Network Rail and Team London Bridge for their support and dedication towards making the pop-up garden day in London Bridge on 7 August 2018 such a great success.

    The power of words

    How can creative writing help people to recover from homelessness? Some of the students at our Recovery College in Bristol share their stories

    The Recovery College is one of St Mungo’s most innovative projects, based on the principle that learning can be a transformative experience. Courses are designed, delivered and attended by St Mungo’s clients, staff and volunteers, and they are also open to the general public. All courses are free and run by volunteers.

    Unlike traditional colleges, the main focus is not on achieving a qualification. Instead, the Recovery College provides a supportive educational environment in which people have the opportunity to sample a wide range of subjects and wellbeing activities alongside a diverse group of peer learners.

    Our Recovery College in Bristol runs a range of arts and music classes, offering our clients a safe space to be creative. Among these is the popular creative writing class, led by published novelist Dawn Maria Kelly.

    Creative writing is a powerful outlet for self-expression, which can be therapeutic for people who have experienced homelessness or who are in recovery for substance use issues. In addition to improving self-esteem and wellbeing, creative writing can also improve clients’ interpersonal skills and confidence, helping people to find employment or further study opportunities in the future.

    The weekly class receives a steady turnout of clients, each with their own stories to tell, in their own unique way. The quality of writing produced in the class has been so high that Dawn and a group of her students made a booklet called St Mungo’s Magic Tales, which they hope to publish soon.

    “Making the booklet, something physical that you can see and touch, has made a huge difference to the people who contributed their writing and illustrations to it,” says Dawn. “It’s something they can feel proud of, and show to their friends and family.”

    Eddie

    “I’ve learnt a lot about myself.”

    “I avoided creative writing in the past because I thought it wasn’t for me. I used to come to the Recovery College just for the music classes. I saw the creative writing class working in the garden one day in summer, and I thought, why not give it a shot? So I joined in, and I’ve been coming ever since.

    I’m quite an emotional sort of person, and I find writing is good for self-expression. I’ve learnt a lot about myself coming here. A lot about myself, and a lot about other people. Normally it takes a long time to get to know someone. But in the class, people write about themselves, and they write about intimate things. They pour their hearts out sometimes.”

    Sara

    “Being here has really helped my confidence.”

    “I couldn’t read and write a lot before, I’ve taught myself since school really. When I first started the class, I wouldn’t ever talk in the room. I’d just sit there and write for myself. But I share my work more now. Being here has really helped my confidence.

    I put my writing and drawings in the booklet which I never thought I’d do, ever! Now I’ve done it, I want to write a book about my life, from my first memory to now. Not for anyone to read, just to challenge myself. I want to become an art therapist in the future. It’s way down the line, but I’ve been volunteering at some of the art classes here for experience. The staff are amazing. You have your bad days, they are here, your good days, they are here. They’ll help you with any kind of problem.”

    Tracy

    “It’s a way to escape.”

    “I always liked writing when I was a kid, but as an adult I don’t really do anything artistic or creative in my everyday life. So this class is a good creative outlet – it’s my time just for me. It’s a safe space to be a bit vulnerable. I can write something really personal, and no one ever says ‘that’s rubbish!’ Everyone is incredibly supportive.

    But the great thing is that you don’t have to talk about yourself if you don’t feel like it. You can experiment, and be completely ridiculous if you want. I’m in recovery for addiction at the moment. It’s going fairly well, but at recovery groups there is obviously a lot of recovery talk… which is important, but sometimes it’s nice to have a break from that. In the class I can write about whatever I want. It’s a way to escape.”

    Jayne

    I was proud to show it to my children.”

    “I started coming to the Recovery College when I was homeless. To start with it was just to get me off the street for a few hours. I’ve been in my own flat for three years now, but I’m still coming to classes. I like the writing class because you can say what’s in your head. Out there, I talk about my children a lot, and some people in my life tell me I talk about them too much. But here I can write about them asmuch as I like. It’s nice to come here and figure out what you like. I love words, and lots of description.

    When my work was published in the booklet, I was really chuffed. I was proud to show it to my children. The group worked together to edit it and decide where the stories and pictures would go. It was nice to share and collaborate, and boost each other’s work. I like encouraging people who don’t feel good about their writing. You tell someone how wonderful their piece of work is, and see how happy they are. And you think, I did that, I made someone feel good. Giving out praise is actually nicer than receiving it.”

    How can we halt the rise in ‘returners’?

    Rory Weal, St Mungo’s Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, looks at why more people are returning to rough sleeping and why the Government needs to act now to halt a worrying trend

    For those of us passionate about ending homelessness there was, for once, some welcome news last week. New figures from the latest annual CHAIN (Combined Homelessness and Information Network) report (PDF) showed that there has been an 8% decrease in the number of people sleeping rough in London.

    The 7,484 people who were seen rough sleeping in 2017/18 is the lowest total since 2013/14, although it is still over twice the number seen ten years ago.

    London seems to be bucking the national trend, suggesting services are working better together to prevent people sleeping rough in the first place, as well as helping them off the streets quickly if they end up there.

    Rising numbers returning to rough sleeping

    However, we should be under no illusion that the annual CHAIN statistics paint a rosy picture. Among the positives, the figures also give serious causes for concern – not least on the rising number of people returning to rough sleeping after a period off the streets.

    In 2017/18, 1,119 people seen rough sleeping during the year were returners, representing a rise of 8% on the previous year and 27% since 2014/15. While overall numbers have gone down, the total number of returners continues to rise. In addition to the number of people sleeping rough, the CHAIN database also records the outcomes for people seen sleeping rough in London. These figures suggest the root of the problem is an increasing reliance on short term accommodation, with people who have experienced rough sleeping finding longer term sustainable housing harder and harder to access.

    Of those who had been sleeping rough and were booked into accommodation last year, 78% moved into short-term accommodation (such as hostels). Just 22% found mid-long term housing (such as the private rented sector or long term supported housing), a fall from the previous year.

    At the same time, the proportion of people leaving short-term accommodation to take up a place in longer term housing has halved in three years, from 40% in 2014/15 to 21% in 2017/18. Many of those who fail to find a home are moving back onto the streets, with ‘negative’ reasons for departure from hostels and other short-term options also rising in recent years.

    Why do people return to rough sleeping?

    To shed more light on the reasons people return to rough sleeping after time off the streets, St Mungo’s has published a new report, On my own two feetThe research, carried out by peer researchers with experience of homelessness and rough sleeping, uncovered many reasons people end up being pushed and pulled back to life on the streets.

    The research revealed multiple barriers to accessing long-term housing for people with experience of rough sleeping, including the reluctance of landlords to let to people receiving benefits, a lack of truly affordable rents, money for a deposit or support for individuals to manage their tenancies.

    The keys to ending rough sleeping for good

    How can we make things better? At St Mungo’s we believe the Government should use its upcoming rough sleeping strategy to increase long term accommodation options for people with a history of sleeping rough and guarantee funding for accompanying support.

    One model which should be expanded is the Clearing House in London, which offers ring-fenced social housing for people with a history of rough sleeping and ongoing support to help them cope with living independently and move towards employment. Another good model is Housing First, which provides stable tenancies and intensive support for people who have complex needs.

    We know that getting people into suitable, long term housing with appropriate support is key to ending rough sleeping for good. We now need action to achieve this. We cannot allow the rise in returners to become the start of a worrying new trend.

     

    Celebrating St Mungo’s women

    St Mungo's clients

    Cat Glew, Women’s Strategy Manager for St Mungo’s, marks International Women’s Day by celebrating St Mungo’s women and the services that support them.

    International Women’s Day on 8 March 2018 is a chance to celebrate the strengths and achievements of women. Here at St Mungo’s we’ve got a lot to celebrate.

    We work with women every day – women sleeping rough, women facing homelessness and women living in our supported housing who are fighting to recover and build a future for themselves.

    We work will women who have dealt with the most difficult challenges, with lives marked by violence, abuse and poverty. Women who have lost everything, and kept going.

    Four in ten of our residents are women. In London alone, 1,175 women were found sleeping rough by outreach teams last year.

    These are women with incredible talent and strength, and we think they are worth celebrating. Since last March, St Mungo’s women have climbed Snowdon, appeared on The One Show, and been honoured by the Royal Horticultural Society. They have spoken in front of Ministers and MPs in Parliament. They have created art and poetry. They have been parents and colleagues and friends. They have escaped the streets. They have survived.

    The St Mungo’s women’s strategy is about finding and creating ways for women to recover from homelessness. Our research has shown that the causes and experiences of homelessness are different for women, so we know that the solutions for women should be different, too.

    The majority of women who have slept rough have experienced violence or abuse from a partner or their family. According to figures from London’s CHAIN database, 60 per cent of women sleeping rough last year faced problems with their mental health. Safety from violence and support to deal with trauma are fundamental for women’s recovery.

    So this International Women’s Day, we are celebrating our projects designed for women. St Mungo’s runs women-only projects in London and Bristol, including emergency shelters, hostels and a women’s psychotherapy service. We are also working hard to develop and improve our work with women in our mixed services.

    We do this work because we know how important it is that women feel safe when they access support to end their homelessness, and that they can work with someone that understands their experience.

    So this International Women’s Day, thank you to all St Mungo’s staff and volunteers supporting women to recover. And thank you to our supporters who make this work possible.

    I will be in Parliament on this day with a group of St Mungo’s women, learning more about the Suffragettes and their campaign for voting rights. There’s plenty more for us to do. The government has committed to end rough sleeping, so we’ll be asking them to deliver a new rough sleeping strategy that understands and invests in women.

    A strategy to end rough sleeping for women ­- that really would be something to celebrate.

    Share this article and #PressForProgress this International Women’s Day.

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