What it’s like to be an Outreach worker

    Winter Edition 2023

    What's like to be an Outreach worker

    Sam McCormack has been a St Mungo’s Outreach worker since the start of the pandemic. From waking rough sleepers at 6am to the best text he’s ever received, he takes us through a few of his experiences on the job.

    I’ve worked for St Mungo’s for five and a half years. I was the Antisocial Behaviour Support Worker for rough sleepers, then I became an Outreach worker at the beginning of the pandemic.

    They really needed someone just because of the sheer volume of people on the streets. Because the government said everyone must be housed during covid, we housed over 400 clients over a short space of time – I had a caseload of about 55 clients at any given point (15-20 clients is a normal load).

    It’s not as simple as saying “this is what my day’s going to be today”. Today on my Outreach sheets (which are lists of rough sleepers and their locations) there are 36 different names of rough sleepers and their locations written on here – from just this morning!

    A lot of them are regular clients, and then when we get in we pick up phone messages and emails about the whereabouts of various rough sleepers. We get them from members of the public, from clients themselves, from any other agencies, drug and alcohol services, ambulance, police – you name it. Sometimes there are no messages, sometimes there are as many as 12 or 20.

    It’s common for people to not want to engage at first. It could be they’ve had poor experiences with agencies or the council that left them with the thought, “I’ve tried this before, it didn’t work out”.

    That’s where our consistent approach is so important: we make sure they know we’re here when they’re ready. Sometimes they say they don’t want to do the housing stuff, but they have a health issue and we refer them to our health teams.


    It’s all about gauging from that first moment how they want their support. If they say, “Please can you not come and wake me up at six in the morning?” that’s perfectly alright. If you don’t want to speak today, we’ll come back.

    We have a lot of clients who are long-term rough sleepers who, in the last couple of years, have engaged and actually gone into accommodation. If you say, “What can we do for you?” they’ll often say nothing, but if you ask, “How’s your health? Have you got a passport, benefits, money?”, often they’ll come back to us a few weeks later.

    “As Outreach workers, we’re the ones who bring in a sense of normality and structure to clients amid a lot of chaos. We find them, say hello and offer help, and often it takes time to build trust.”

    Sometimes they walk several miles to come here when previously they didn’t want help, because now the trust is there.

    Christmas usually brings an influx of rough sleepers to Bournemouth. Rural homelessness is difficult; being out in the middle of nowhere, and begging is much easier at the Christmas market in Bournemouth.

    The client that sticks in my mind is one I referred to Hope Housing, a small charity that provides supported accommodation for people experiencing homelessness; he was in semi-supported shared accommodation within a week and a half.

    He sent me a text that said, “You lot mean more to me than you can ever imagine” and a heart emoji at the end! We also have a feedback book where clients write lovely messages to us. I always tell colleagues, “During your bad days, when the clients have been directing their frustration at you, just come back and read the book.”

    Sometimes they walk several miles to come here when previously they didn’t want help, because now the trust is there.

    Christmas usually brings an influx of rough sleepers to Bournemouth. Rural homelessness is difficult; being out in the middle of nowhere, and begging is much easier at the Christmas market in Bournemouth.

    The truth about Outreach is that there’s no typical day, no typical client. And to our supporters, I just want to say thank you. Without them we wouldn’t be here.

    I’ve worked for a lot of housing associations and none of them have been as compassionate as St Mungo’s; they think about the bigger picture.

    3 things the Government can do to end rough sleeping

    Winter Edition 2023

    3 things the Government can do to end rough sleeping

    What can we learn from our response to the pandemic when it comes to homelessness? The Kerslake Commission has three recommendations.

    Few will remember the Covid-19 pandemic with any kind of fondness. But it was also a moment in which ambitious solutions to homelessness were implemented.

    The Government’s initiative Everyone In ensured that people sleeping rough were put up in hotels and other forms of accommodation, and remarkable progress was made. So what lessons can we learn from our pandemic response?

    The Kerslake Commission was set up, with St Mungo’s as the secretariat, to answer that question. Joe Walker, our Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, explains three of its recommendations:

    1. Raise housing benefit

    Image: Mobile

    “During the pandemic, the Government increased rates of universal credit by £20 a week, to recognise that people needed extra support. But it just brought people to a level that they needed to sustain themselves. When that was removed, it had a huge impact.

    “With benefits levels already inadequate, the freeze to housing benefit means that people can’t cover their rent. So local councils spend around £60m a month on temporary accommodation.

    “The rates of housing benefit should cover the bottom 30% of rent prices. Currently it’s more like 5%, and that estimate is generous. Go on Rightmove or Zoopla and see if you can find any properties for the local housing benefit rate. You can find maybe two or three if you’re lucky.”

    2. Build more housing

    “We’re not in a pandemic anymore, so the response to ending homelessness over the long term will look different. We won’t be able to open hotels and student accommodation again for people to be housed in.

    “This country has failed to build an adequate supply of social rented housing. That puts huge amounts of pressure on the private rented sector, so rents are sky high. So people can’t afford to move on from homelessness, or they fall into homelessness because they can’t afford to sustain their housing.

    “Even if the Government decided to build more housing, getting bricks in the ground will take the best part of a decade, so we need intermediate solutions: regenerating housing that has fallen into disrepair, more robust measures on empty properties, and transferring current developments that are for private or shared ownership into social rented housing. Alleviating pressure at the bottom end of the market is the most effective way of preventing homelessness.

    “Because there’s not enough social housing, our clients are placed into the private rental sector when they move on from homelessness. The private rental sector is great for some: flexible, easier to live nearer workplaces in the city centre. But what people recovering from homelessness need is safe, secure and affordable housing, which the private rental sector is not.”


    3. Extend support to non-UK nationals

    “Around half of people sleeping rough in urban areas are non-UK nationals. During the pandemic the Government was clear that anyone, regardless of their immigration status, should be brought in off the streets.

    “Now the funding no longer exists, and the Government isn’t clear about what local authorities can do to support people who have limited entitlements to public funds due to their immigration status.

    “At St Mungo’s, we don’t just support people on the front line when they’re experiencing crisis; we want to change the systemic issues that cause people to be in that situation in the first place. When you support St Mungo’s, yes you’re supporting people who need outreach support and placing in accommodation – but you’re also supporting an organisation that is committed to ending homelessness and rough sleeping in the long term.”

    Support that can turn lives around

    Winter Edition 2023

    Support that can turn lives around

    St Mungo’s offers help in so many ways – such as running 12 Housing First schemes, which offer people experiencing homelessness housing as quickly as possible so they can then deal with other issues (such as addiction, unemployment, or mental health issues) from a secure environment.

    We talked to case worker Andrew Murray and his client ‘L’ about how this kind of support turns lives around…

    Providing clients with essential support

    “As a case worker, you’ve got to build a trusting relationship quite quickly and that’s hard to do, because you’re working with people who don’t really trust many people at all.

    “You become an integral part of their lives. It’s a testament to how well the service does that when I started there were six clients and now there’s almost 60.

    “The success rate is incredibly high, which for us means that people stay in accommodation and break the cycle of going back to the streets. I had clients who were housed with Housing First in 2016 who have managed to stay in the same accommodation.

    “Christmas is a difficult time for a lot of people, those with children or extended family they don’t see or are estranged from can find it really hard. You’ve just got to be there for them.

    “To supporters of St Mungo’s, I would say, your contributions enable St Mungo’s to be able to invest in services like Housing First, which gives people the time and resources to develop to their full potential and succeed.”

    Client L's story

    “I had an abusive father, and I’d been on heroin since I was seven. I knew about withdrawal and how to inject myself before I finished primary school.

    “When I got away from my dad I was moved into a hostel (not run by St Mungo’s). I was trying to get clean, but other residents were difficult. There’d be a knock on my door at 3am, and someone’s arm would come through with a tourniquet around it and a needle asking me to do it because they couldn’t find a vein. So I left, thinking I’d rather be on the streets – and I was, for seven years.

    “I was polite to people, never asked for money, I just had a sign. I tried getting into accommodation, but I was sent to the same place, with some of the same residents. I decided again to take my chances on the streets. The council saw this as me making myself intentionally homeless.

    “During ‘the Beast from the East’ I was outside a Tesco’s literally getting covered in snow, and people threw coffee at me from a moving car. That’s your lowest point. I’ve had a tent set on fire while I was inside, I’ve been urinated on, beaten up, had my shoes stolen.

    “I’ve had a tent set on fire while I was inside, I’ve been urinated on, beaten up, had my shoes stolen.”

    “As an addict, winter is particularly dangerous. You’re physically dependent so if you don’t have it, you’re vomiting every five seconds, going to the toilet uncontrollably and all your trauma that’s been blocked out is going to hit you like a wave and none of your coping mechanisms are there to protect you. If you’re homeless, you’ve got no change of clothes, no shower – it’s dangerous to be sweating profusely and unable to keep water or food down.

    “I became suicidal. When I tried to kill myself, I was sectioned for all of six hours: the second they found out I was homeless and an addict they gave me £30 for a B&B and dropped me back in Bournemouth.

    “Things turned around, but only after something terrible happened. A guy I knew froze to death after he said the council took his bedding away. We used to talk a lot, he would stand outside McDonalds and say hi to people; I’m lactose and gluten intolerant so I would give him my extra food. I didn’t see him for a couple of days, and then I found out he’d frozen to death. A week or so later, my phone rang: the council were putting me in a hotel.

    “After a few weeks I was referred to Housing First. They said, ‘We’ll give you a flat with the rent paid, and you can take it from there.‘ They said I was getting a key worker from St Mungo’s and I was very wary of letting a stranger in.

    “Now Andy and I have worked together for almost five years. I feel like doctors make up their mind about me straight away but when I have Andy present I have a witness with a laminated badge which completely changes how people treat you.

    “The reason this has worked for me is the autonomy I have: I’ve been able to taper my methadone down at my own pace, and request that the drugs charity WeAreWithYou lower my dose as I’ve gotten my daily intake lower and lower.

    “Out of all the different services I’ve worked with, with St Mungo’s the practical help is huge.

    “I feel like doctors make up their mind about me straight away but when I have Andy present I have a witness with a laminated badge which completely changes how people treat you.”

    “Whether it’s needing to go to the pharmacy or ‘I need to talk to someone right now!’, they’ve always been able to help. Andy is perfectly suited for helping people.”

    25 years of helping St Mungo’s clients

    Winter Edition 2023

    25 years of helping St Mungo's clients

    Marking her 25th year with St Mungo’s, few have made more impact on how we support our clients than Samantha Cowie.

    As Head of Criminal Justice Services, Sam tells us about the work she leads here at St Mungo’s, where housing meets the criminal justice system.

    If you want to address homelessness in Britain, you’ve got to look at the population that are coming out of prisons with nowhere to live.

    “No matter how quickly you’re taking people off the street you’ve still got this flow of people coming out, often with nowhere to go.”

    Sam and her team support people to either sustain the accommodation they have when they go into prison (so that, if their sentence is short enough, it will be waiting for them upon their release), or if they can’t save it, to help them relinquish it in a way that won’t diminish their housing rights when they do leave prison.

    If they have no accommodation or won’t have anywhere to live when they’re released, Sam and her team help them find housing.

    There is a strong link between prison and homelessness, Sam explains.

    “Many people who find themselves homeless are at a higher risk of finding themselves engaged with the criminal justice system in some way… If you’ve got nowhere to live, no money or you can’t claim benefits you may feel you have no other choice than to, for example, shoplift. If you’re suffering with your mental health, you might be self-medicating with drugs, drink, antisocial behaviour happens…”

    People also have a higher risk of experiencing homelessness when they are released from prison and are far more likely to reoffend if they have nowhere to live.

    In her 25 years, Sam has fought tirelessly to get the housing needs of prisoners taken into consideration; even here at St Mungo’s.

    “When I first started working in Criminal Justice Services, I remember having to make the argument that it’s an integral part of what St Mungo’s does,” says Sam.

    “It took a long time for this link to be recognised across the whole sector: that part of our work in Criminal Justice Services is to highlight that people on the streets can end up offending and in prison, and people who’ve been in prison often come out and end up on the street. Either way, they end up in our hostels, or from our hostels they end up in prison.”

    Sadly, perhaps understandably in some ways, there is still a lack of public empathy for prisoners.

    The element of rehabilitation is often overridden by the idea of prison as a punishment, and the negative impact of incarceration becomes something that is ‘deserved’.

    “People don’t want to hear about criminals being supported in a way that they see as unfair, and that includes access to housing or services,” says Sam.

    “We're not making excuses for bad choices, but quite often there are also explanations as to why people end up in that situation, and we are trying to undo that damage”

    “And yet we know that prisons are full of young people who have come through the care system, been failed by it, and who have been institutionalised to the point of not functioning outside the institution.

    “And when efforts are made to rehabilitate through activities like sports, the arts, education and helping them get jobs and a home, people are often angry about it because they see it as a reward.”

    The idea of reward and punishment misses the point of rehabilitation, Sam explains.

    “We’re not making excuses for bad choices, but quite often there are also explanations as to why people end up in that situation, and we are trying to undo that damage – the alternative is we lock people up and do nothing, no effort to rehabilitate, and the cycle continues.

    “It can cost around £50,000 a year to keep a person in prison: that’s a lot of money if someone keeps going back again and again. Having a home goes some way in breaking that cycle.”

    On occasion, people experiencing homelessness even offend because prison feels like a step up from life
    on the streets, deliberately getting arrested to return to the familiarity of the prison system.

    While the numbers are not quite as drastic as some have reported, Sam says it is something her team sees, but most often it happens in the run up to Christmas.

    “If you’ve been institutionalised and you don’t have that family dynamic, Christmas is a really stressful time of year for people,” she says. “It can be a stark reminder of what you don’t have.”

    Last night on the streets: introducing our winter campaign

    Winter Edition 2023

    Introducing our winter campaign

    Rough sleeping in winter can be fatal. Just one night in the warm can turn someone’s life around. With your support, tonight could be someone’s last night on the streets. 

    The cycle of homelessness

    It can be hard to see a way out of rough sleeping. Without a home, finding a job is almost impossible and without a job, finding a home is impossible. And in winter, rough sleeping can be dangerous or even fatal.

    Last year we launched Last Night on the Streets to highlight the dangers of rough sleeping, and our brilliant outreach teams who work all hours to bring people in from the cold to safety.

    Last night on the streets

    The demand for support is increasing again this year, and the pressure is on. The numbers of people facing eviction amid a housing emergency have risen to shocking levels, and the cost of living crisis has pushed the most vulnerable into unsuitable temporary accommodation or even onto the streets.

    As part of our winter campaign and in the hopes of reaching more people like you, we have produced a TV advert that provides a glimpse into a person’s journey from the streets and into accommodation, the harsh winter elements they endure night after night, and the hope that our outreach teams can bring.

    We are so thankful to you for supporting our clients through times like these and we hope to spread the word to as many people as possible. The more wonderful supporters like you we can find, the more people we can help.

    An end to rough sleeping is possible. Thank you for helping us to get there.

    Keeping best friends together

    Summer Edition 2023

    Keeping best friends together

    A pet can be a lifeline for someone recovering from homelessness. That’s why we’re one of the only charities to offer pet friendly accommodation.

    Having Marnie the poodle really helps Lisa – she keeps her company and gives her motivation. Lisa shares her story:

    “I started sleeping rough after leaving care at 16. I’d been going to the West End in London with an older girl since I was about 13, and it was always exciting. There were all these older adults and I thought they were looking after me.

    “One day, they said “do you want to try some crack?”, so I said yes. I didn’t have a clue what it was, but it was nice, and I carried on doing it.

    “A group of us used to sleep down by Leicester Square. There was an old cinema that had shut down, and we would be in front of the doorway. To be honest, at the time it seemed quite exciting because I’d never experienced any of that before.

    “But as I got older, I realised it wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t exciting having to wake up and get money for drugs every morning.”

    “I'm 38 now, and I’ve stayed in lots of hostels over the years, but this is the best hostel I’ve ever been in. The minute I walked through those doors, it’s like a proper community. You can come down for breakfast, they do wellbeing group, and the Recovery College is just across the street."

    “They do arts and crafts and cookery groups. The managers are so friendly, and the staff will help you any way they can.

    “It’s so nice to have Marnie, my mum’s dog here too. To be able to have a little companion. When I’m on my own I just want to stay in bed. Because I’m not using drugs anymore, I’m on methadone. But when I’ve got Marnie with me, we’ve got a nice little routine. I couldn’t stay in all day with her, it wouldn’t be fair. She’d get bored.

    “In future, I’d like to get my own place, with my own dog. I love staffs. I’m also trying to get into voluntary work – I want to do anything working with dogs. My support worker’s very encouraging, and he’s helping me look into it.”

    Take the Lead

    Do you have a dog that you enjoy walking? Could you walk 26 or 50 miles together in a month?

    If the answer’s yes, then why not take part in our dog walking challenge, Take the Lead this August? And help raise vital funds to end homelessness.

    Choose to walk either 26 or 50 miles in a month with your four legged friend.

    You can take on this paw-some challenge anywhere, in your own time and at your own pace. You could choose to go on short walks every day, or go for longer distances at the weekend – it’s your challenge, so you can decide when and where you clock up the miles.

    Register for free today to receive a St Mungo’s
    T-shirt and mile tracker. Plus, get a funky St Mungo’s dog bandana if you raise over £50.

    As one of the only charities to offer pet friendly accommodation, you’ll be helping to keep more friends like Lisa and Marnie together.

    Championing better care

    Summer Edition 2023

    Championing better care

    Matt Bawden, Regional Head for North Region and Physical Health explains how our two CQC registered care homes support clients, and shares the findings of our recent care review.

    “People who’ve experienced long term homelessness often have multiple physical and mental health needs, and higher levels of drug and alcohol use. All of these things can prove very challenging for a mainstream care home to support.

    “That’s where St Mungo’s registered care homes come in. Our staff are trained in managing challenging behaviour, understanding complex traumas, and working in a psychologically informed way. So rather than evicting people when they show challenging behaviour, we’re able to meet them where they are.

    “For example, many of our clients use alcohol problematically. But rather than banning it, which wouldn’t work, we deliver a harm reduction model – supporting clients to reduce their alcohol in a controlled and sustainable way.

    “This not only helps improve their physical health, but also reduces the risk of conflict with staff or residents.

    “We produce alcohol agreements with clients so they can agree on the amount they will drink when they move into the home. 

    Chichester Road had a beautiful garden

    “It’s about creating a joint effort rather than telling them what to do. And that helps them to be more open to all the other support that we're able to offer."

    “Our clients are often frequent users of primary care services like A&E before they move in, but we often see a reduction in use over time, because they’re getting the support they need. If we excluded them for drinking, they wouldn’t get that support.

    “Another benefit that’s quite hard to measure, but is really important to us, is an increase in dignity. If someone has issues with things like personal care or incontinence, living in a hostel is not ideal. We regularly notice an improvement in people’s appearance and self-confidence when they move into one of our care homes.”

    Our care review

    Image: St Mungo's care home at Hilldrop Road
    Our care home at Hilldrop Road

    Our care homes are a great example of how the right care, delivered in the right place, can transform a person’s quality of life and support them to leave homelessness behind for good. Sadly, there are very few services like this available.

    Last year we decided to carry out a care review, to find out more about the care and support needs of clients across all of St Mungo’s services, and see if there is a need for more specialist care homes.

    Our review found that the main challenges to accessing the right care are:

    A lack of specialist care homes

    Currently, there are simply not enough beds to meet demand.

    Long waits for the Care Act assessment

    When someone needs care, our staff will refer them to the council for a Care Act assessment. But a large proportion of St Mungo’s managers described long delays in waiting for assessments and decisions, and increasingly high assessment thresholds.

    A lack of understanding of complex needs

    Many St Mungo’s services found external care teams to be unresponsive and inflexible when working with people with complex needs, such as clients with experience of drug and alcohol use.

    Life Changing Care

    We are sharing the findings of the review in our report, Life Changing Care: The role, gaps and solutions in providing social care to people experiencing homelessness. It will be shared with policy makers and sector professionals to raise awareness and promote much needed change.

    Hear from our clients


    “I’ve lived here just over a year. I was sleeping rough for a while, and to come into somewhere warm, it’s real cosy.

    “I’ve stayed in some places where you’re really not supported at all, but I feel properly supported here. You get your own room, can have your own independence, but you can also be social. You’ve got a pool table, TV. And we have residents’ meetings where we can bring up any problems. But I don’t have any – I’m really grateful to be here. I would give it 100/100.”


    “I’ve lived here for over 10 years now. I was in a more independent place but then I became ill. It’s good – they help you manage your money, you get a regular haircut and shave, and the food is good. They do a big breakfast sometimes, which I enjoy.”

    Challenging prejudice against Roma people

    Summer Edition 2023

    Challenging prejudice against Roma people

    We believe that nobody should be left to face the streets alone – no matter where they’re from – and our Roma Rough Sleeping Service aims to tackle the unique issues that Roma face. Manager, Nico shares their achievements so far:

    “I joined St Mungo’s as an Outreach Worker in 2020. My colleagues were finding it hard to engage with Roma people who were rough sleeping, because they didn’t have the cultural understanding or speak the language. Roma tend to stick together in groups and that can make them difficult for outreach workers to approach too.

    “Having previously worked with Roma across Europe, and being Roma myself, the skills and experience I was able to share really helped us to break through to this community.

    “Then, in December 2020, we received our first funding to pilot the Roma Rough Sleeping Service. For that year it was just me and one other colleague, so we were very busy.

    “Since then, we have become a permanent service, growing to employ three mediators, one coordinator and a manager.

    “We support clients to access immigration advice – making sure they are referred to the right services, and going with them to appointments so they feel supported. We can also translate for them if necessary."

    “Another big area of our work is health – getting clients registered with a GP and access to health services. We also help people with benefits, employment and housing, and so far we’ve supported 20 people into accommodation, which is a huge achievement.

    “One of our strongest skills is knowing how to navigate between the two systems – the British system of law and services and everything, and the Roma cultural system. That’s why my colleagues are called mediators, because they are in between the two. It’s the first time we have Roma mediators hired in the UK, so St Mungo’s is really breaking through.

    A shocking 87% of Roma rough sleepers have struggled to access homelessness services.

    “Another skill we have in this team is that we are advocates for our clients. We can see where the system doesn’t work, and the barriers that are created because of stereotypes and discrimination, and take action."

    “The team have trained hundreds of practitioners across London on Roma history and culture, and how to work with Roma rough sleepers.

    “I’m very proud of my team because in a very short time, we have succeeded to really touch the lives of our people. Seeing people I met in 2020, who never dreamed to have a house here and are now inside accommodation, is the highest reward we can get in our work.

    “And our work is being recognised by others too. Last year, we were thrilled to receive a letter from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, commending our service.”

    “Your work has had a real impact on improving engagement and trust between Roma people sleeping rough and mainstream services.”

    Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

    © Greater London Authority

    Frequently asked questions

    Who are Roma?

    There are an estimated 10-12 million Roma currently living in Europe. Historians believe that Roma first arrived here from North West India sometime around the 12th century. Roma have a common language, Rromanës, which has different dialects.

    How are they affected by homelessness?

    Roma have faced a long history of prejudice and organised persecution since arriving in Europe. In some countries, Roma were enslaved until the 19th century. They were targeted by the Nazis during the holocaust, and between the 1970’s and 1990’s, the Czech Republic and Slovakia sterilized Romani women against their will.

    Unfortunately, prejudice is still widespread and today, and 80% of Roma in Europe live below the risk of poverty threshold. This, alongside culture and language barriers, has created a sense of distrust amongst Roma communities, making it harder for them to access mainstream support like housing services.

    What's the difference between Roma and Romanian?

    Roma does not mean Romanian – it is a coincidence that the two words are similar. But Romania has one of the highest populations of Roma in the world, which is why this is a common misconception.

    What’s the difference between Roma, gypsies and travellers?

    Roma are often wrongly called “gypsies”. This name came about because people assumed they were Egyptian, and shortened this to “gypsy”.

    Roma shouldn’t be called “travellers” either. Irish and Scottish Travellers have their own unique identity and culture which is very different to Roma. And whilst Roma travelled from place to place in the past, most of the population is now settled in one place.

    Shining a light on women’s homelessness

    Shining a light on women's homelessness

    This month, we’ve launched Visible Women. A new campaign which aims shine a light on women’s homelessness, and help women access the support they need.

    Kate, Women's Recovery Coordinator

    “I lead Safe Space – a project that looks at new ways to help some of the most vulnerable women in our services. Specifically, women experiencing multiple disadvantage including sexual exploitation, violence and abuse.”

    “We want to build trust, and remove barriers to accessing talking therapy. By bringing specialised support directly to them.”

    "We’ve found that these women have a wide range of support needs, but they do share two key things. An experience of trauma and a lack of trust in services."

    “Almost all of the women we’re working with would otherwise struggle to access this kind of help. Because of the complex trauma they have experienced, attending appointments and structured sessions is a barrier.

    “Many of the women we work with are drug and alcohol dependent and this too can exclude them from traditional services.”

    Maria, Psychotherapist

    “The service is unique because it draws on all the knowledge we’ve gained through the Safe Space project, and there are no formal referrals or assessments.

    “I’ll start by going to a hostel and introducing myself. I let the women know that I’ll be there on certain days and times. If they’re interested, they can choose whether they want to do drop-ins, or have a set appointment. Flexibility is really important.

    “If someone doesn’t feel comfortable talking at the hostel, we’ll go out. It’s all about giving back choice and control. They can take their time to get to know me before digging deeper into things.”

    "Psychotherapy can look very different for everyone, it’s very client led. Most clients will tell me what their goals are. It might be moving out, or having their own place. Then we’ll start working on goals that are closer, or thinking about what actions they need to take to get there."

    “Another big part of what we do is networking with other services and empowering women to advocate for themselves. To ask for what they need.

    “We are often present during meetings with other services or staff, and the client will speak for themselves.”

    "When we first started the project, we thought that we would have to really work hard to get women to get involved. But the appetite for this is massive. We’ve got lots of ambitious ideas for the future and we want to reach as many women as possible."

    Meet Sophia

    “I used to sleep behind the police station in Hounslow to keep safe. During the day, I sat on the tube, riding back and forth from Cockfosters to Heathrow.

    “As a woman, you get a lot of people offering you money for sexual favours. Some men out there, they’ll see a vulnerable woman and use that to their advantage. I’ve seen it happen to people and it’s not nice.”

    "But St Mungo’s supported me. They got me some clothes, they got me some food and they said ‘you’re safe now."

    Read Sophia’s full story here. Find out more about women’s homelessness on our Visible Women page.

    Grange Road service gets a glow up

    We’ve been commissioned by City of London to provide a high needs support service in the borough of Southwark, and we’re pleased to announce that doors to our Grange Road service opened just a few months ago.

    But it’s more than just a lick of paint – the space has been redesigned with the principles of Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) in mind. This means that the environment takes into account people’s previous experiences, and how these can impact their future recovery and development.

    By providing a safe, inclusive and therapeutic space, we are able to support clients in addressing traumatic experiences they might have had.

    Inside our Grange Road service

    Service Development Manager, Jack, explains:

    “We’re going to be supporting a very diverse, complex group of clients at this service. They might have experienced severe trauma, substance and alcohol use, mental health issues, or prison.

    To give them the best chance, it’s really important that we get them into an environment like this.

    “The hostel consists of a number of open plan spaces, which you don’t always get at a standard hostel.

    “I’ve previously managed hostels where the rooms are quite small. And if clients are coming out of prison, or another institution, it can be a trigger for them.

    “Our rooms are spacious and bright, and we’ve tried to offer as many self-contained rooms as possible, with their own desks, kitchenettes and private bathrooms.

    “To support the 29 clients who are living [at Grange Road], we have a large staff team and robust staffing structure in place. This consists of three staff members being on shift at any time. Day or night, seven days a week. This is to ensure that we are able to provide high levels of support and increase positive interactions with clients. We also have an in house psychologist who attends once a week.”

    “We even have a medical room, where nurses and GP’s will be able to hold clinics. It can be hard enough to get a doctor’s appointment, let alone when you’re experiencing homelessness. So we’re making that process easier by bringing it all in house.”

    Take a tour around Grange Road

Go back