Street Impact Brighton: successes and outcomes

    Street Impact Brighton Limited (SIB) was established to work with some of Brighton’s most complex rough sleepers; people with histories which involve prolonged and repeat episodes of rough sleeping as well as complex issues around alcohol, drug use and mental health.

    The project was due to start in 2017, however attempts to deliver a four-year multiagency, Sussex-wide SIB were unsuccessful. The following year Brighton and Hove City Council commissioned St Mungo’s to deliver Brighton SIB – a pioneering project to work with 100 people who were identified as being hard to reach, and the most difficult for our teams to encourage to engage with our support.

    The project officially started in March 2018 and is a Social Impact Bond which has social investors putting up the funds to meet the scheme’s running costs and is reimbursed on a 100% payment by results basis by Brighton & Hove City Council. This is backed by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

    Fast forward three years and the project closes at the end of March 2021 with some wonderful outcomes. Paulina Drydra, former SIB Outreach Manager shares their journey.

    How does SIB work?

     Over the past three years we have been working with a cohort of 100 named individuals who have experienced long periods of time rough sleeping or who repeatedly return to the streets.  We have a dedicated team of four staff: one manager and three SIB workers. The SIB workers are assigned up to 30 clients each at any one time.

    We were not looking to replace or replicate services that people already had strong links to, but to support those services and fill any gaps with targeted personal support and funds to help people really sustain their recovery.

    The SIB models works because it relies on a great degree of trust between a person sleeping rough and a support worker who has the time and capacity to tackle the complex causes of someone’s homelessness and support them to recover in their own way.

    Optimism when all hope is lost

    Being a SIB worker is about carrying optimism when someone sleeping rough may have lost all hope, while at the same time being absolutely respectful of the individual’s choices and decisions – because it is their life after all. This takes time and focus, and the SIB model gave us that.

    The project essentially succeeds or fails according to how well the team are able to deliver a ‘throughcare’ service – the secret ingredient is providing a new way of working with clients and not replicating something that hasn’t worked before.

    What makes SIB different?

    The two differences that have enabled us to sustain long term outcomes for some of Brighton’s most complex rough sleepers have been consistency and freedom to innovate.

    We offer consistency because we are with people for the whole process allowing the worker/client relationships to develop slowly.

    We have greater freedom to individually tailor our approach to achieve the end goal for our clients, backed up by funds. This kind of approach is harder to take in more traditionally commissioned services, where costs and time spent with each client is directly influenced by commissioning frameworks and contractual expectations.

    Our success

    As we come to the end of the programme, I am proud to say we have achieved some great results. We have engaged with 100 people which is 100% of the original target. We have supported 78% to either enter or sustain their accommodation, providing the vital support they need to get their life back on track, 28% people have successfully signed a long term tenancy agreement and 15% have sustained their tenancy for over one year. There are currently no rough sleepers in Brighton that sit within the SIB Cohort. It’s wonderful to see people feeling in control of their lives again.

    Find out more about our Social Impact Bonds model and successes and outcomes to date here.

    Paulina no longer works for St Mungo’s but she has given her permission to use this article.

    Looking back at the last year, “What a privilege to be a part of it all”

    John from our Outreach team in Bristol reflects on what has been achieved in the past year.

    Looking back at the last year, the first words I think of are tiring and exhausting. But also, what a privilege to be part of it all. What we managed to achieve within that year is absolutely amazing.

    When we first went into lockdown we had to get everyone in, and we had to find the best way to get everybody in. It was that simple. My role is to go onto the streets and reach out to people. To build a relationship. To build trust.

    Sometimes, I was literally able to chat to someone who was sleeping rough, talk to Bristol City Council, and depending on what was available I could get them into emergency accommodation within 20 minutes.

    I have to mention other services. I can only talk about my experience but I can’t emphasize enough how much it was a collective thing. The team, St Mungo’s, other homelessness organisations, the emergency services, Bristol City Council – us as a city, we all pulled together.

    Let’s not forget that most important is the person who is on the street. What we manage to achieve alongside each other. When I think about people who are homeless and how difficult it must have been – one minute they were on a busy street, the next thing they knew the whole city had locked down. How hard that was for people with no homes, for people that needed support or who had alcohol and drug problems. We had to make sure we tailored our support so it was right for their needs.

    You need to remember how fast everything happened at the beginning. Hotels being opened for people on the streets, supported accommodation project making changes so they could keep going – it all happened very quickly! It’s also important to emphasise how Bristol City Council stepped in to help, and how the government gave funding.

    It was stressful and exhausting. I remember some nights I’d get home after a day’s work and fall asleep with my tea on my lap. Go straight to bed and then wake up the next morning to do it all again.

    When we offered people on the streets a hotel room, they couldn’t believe it. Honestly, within a night you could see a difference. An instant stabilisation – being somewhere warm, safe and with a hot meal. Doing the job I do I know how important that is. Imagine how difficult it is on the streets; how hard it is to rest, to find food, to find warm bedding, to find somewhere safe to sleep. And how traumatic that must be for anybody.

    Of course, Covid has been horrific for everyone. But I do have gratitude for some of the positive things that I’ve seen come out of a bad experience. There were people that we had been engaging with for some time – who might have experienced trauma, difficulties with their mental health, or have had challenging experiences – and we were able to get them in for the first time. And because we could get them into emergency accommodation, we have had so many amazing stories of people moving into their own places. Sometimes I see people that I supported into accommodation and they are walking down the street like a completely different person.

    Recently, over winter, we’ve activated our severe weather response three times in Bristol. So we’ve got Covid, we’ve got lockdowns starting and stopping, shops opening and closing and then all of a sudden the weather is freezing and it’s all hands on deck again. We’re out from 6 in the morning until midnight, going out to get everyone in from the cold.

    Even though we achieved what we did in lockdown, sadly there are still people on the street. We can’t lose sight of that. Every single person deserves a home.

    When I reflect back on the last year – exhaustion, tiredness, not sleeping very well – have I recovered from it? Absolutely not! As a team it’s been hard work.

    But also, what a lovely thing to be able to do. What a privilege to be part of it.

    And you know what? I’d do it all again tomorrow.

    World Social Work Day: “I am because we are”

    Today (16 March 2021) is World Social Work Day, which recognises the hard work and dedication of social workers, as well as celebrating best practices in social work. This year, the theme of World Social Work Day is “Ubuntu”. Here, Toni-Lea John-Baptiste, a student social worker on placement with St Mungo’s, discusses the concept of Ubuntu and how it applies to the work we do with our clients.

    I have recently been working as a student social worker with the St. Mungo’s Wellbeing Team in Westminster. While working with the team, I have gained invaluable transferable skills that I will use in my future practice, and I have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of creativity in social work, as well as how social workers can use these skills to think outside of the box when working with service users.

    Due to the current climate of COVID-19, I have had to adapt to remote working. This situation enabled me to draw upon my creativity to engage service users and promote digital literacy in a time where we heavily rely on technology.  Upon reflection, I have realised how important creativity is as a social worker, to be able to adapt and work in any environment.

    The idea of Ubuntu is all about humanism. It is the belief that your sense of self is shaped by the relationships you have with other people ‘I am, only because we are’, and this was a key theme throughout my placement at St Mungo’s. As an example, we used this philosophy as the basis to create a postcard project which involved members of the Westminster community sending ‘messages of hope’ and discussing things that have helped them during this time, to residents within the different projects of the Westminster Wellbeing Pathway.

    At the heart of this project was a sense of community and helping one another, through encouragement, regardless of who the person is or if they even knew them. This was ubuntu in its purest form, as the project was all about helping one another as humans and extending love and hope to echo the philosophy that as a human ‘I am’ ONLY ‘because we are’. It was a truly beautiful project that I am grateful to have been a part of.

    My placement has encouraged my creativity as a student social worker, which has played a big part in me developing projects to engage clients. I found that when working remotely, using a person-centred approach to develop tailor-made projects for clients was the best way to engage and support them.  An example of this would be my work with a client, in which I used a strengths-based approach to create a project based on their artwork. This then led to working on an intensive 1-1 basis, to create a virtual art exhibit with this client, to not only showcase their artwork, but also potentially create a social enterprise opportunity.

    Throughout all of this, particularly because of COVID-19, I’ve realised that you can’t limit social work to a building or a particular place. It’s about treating people as humans, with respect and dignity.

    Why the cold weather feels a little bit different this year

    Petra Salva, St Mungo’s Director of Rough Sleeping, Westminster and Migrant Services, explains why our services ramp up as temperatures drop. And why Covid-19 is making things a little different this year.

    I’ve dedicated my whole working life to supporting people out of rough sleeping and homelessness. Over the last 20 years or so, I thought I had seen everything in terms of the impact rough sleeping can have on a person and their families.  I’ve seen the harm, the hurt and the pain that people experience, and then came the Covid-19 pandemic.

    All of a sudden, the physical and mental vulnerabilities people already experience whilst sleeping rough came into even sharper focus and became a greater emergency.

    Just imagine what it must feel like, sleeping on a pavement, in the dark, alone, fearing for your safety, maybe taking drugs or drinking, just to numb the pain of your situation, feeling physically unwell because of the toll of this lifestyle or because you have another physical problem that has gone untreated or not even yet diagnosed .

    Then you are faced with the fear of a pandemic, a virus that if caught by you, is likely to make you even more vulnerable and possibly kill you.

    I, and colleagues and volunteers across our organisation,  have had the privilege of helping to house and support hundreds of people since the start of the pandemic to try to address all these risks, but despite our best efforts and that of many charities and local authorities, we have not been able to house everyone, so tonight, too many people are still faced with the grim reality of sleeping rough.

    And now comes the winter and the cold.

    Sleeping rough is dangerous at any time of the year but when the cold strikes, it is even more deadly. Cold weather can, and does, kill.

    On top of that, we know many people who rough sleep already have underlying health conditions, so the risk of Covid-19 makes it even more vital that our clients have access to safe accommodation which will protect them from not just the weather, but from contracting the virus as well.

    There is no doubt, this year will probably be the most challenging that I and our outreach teams have ever experienced but, that won’t stop us from working around the clock to try to save lives by bringing people in from the cold and supporting them when they need us the most.

    The Severe Weather Response, also known as ‘Severe Weather Emergency Protocol’ (SWEP) is triggered when the Met Office forecasts freezing temperatures.

    This can vary from region to region. In London, it is called if it’s going to be zero degrees or below for one night. In our regional areas, it will be activated if zero degrees is forecast three nights in a row, except for in Brighton where our commissioners use a “feels like” temperature.

    In previous years, when local authorities have informed us that our severe weather response is needed, we have provided emergency shelter in the form of communal spaces.

    This year however, we will not be able to provide this type of accommodation. Our clients must be able to sleep somewhere which also allows them to self-isolate, away from others so that they are not at increased risk of contracting Covid-19, but this doesn’t mean we won’t be helping people this year. Instead, we have found new ways to keep our clients safe this winter.

    Our teams have been as agile, adaptable and creative as they always are – seeking out every possible option which can be used to provide much needed accommodation – cleaning rooms previously used for storage, converting meeting rooms to bedrooms – resourcefully adapting as many spaces as we can. As well as working with local councils to find other suitable places.

    Protecting people from the elements is just the beginning for us. Because I know that providing somewhere warm and safe to stay is just the first step.

    Often, when it’s really cold, we have a valuable opportunity to engage with people who, under normal circumstances, might be reluctant to come indoors. So our teams are committed to trying their very best to ensure every person brought inside never has to go back to sleeping outside again.

    They go above and beyond to help people with their future plans, including reconnecting them with family and loved ones, providing permanent housing and linking them to health services, as well as assisting with benefit and employment support.

    Like I said at the very beginning, I have seen first-hand the harm and pain that rough sleeping causes people, but I have also seen how, with the right help and support people can and do recover from homelessness.

    The reason I am still here fighting is because I have hope and belief that mass rough sleeping really can be a thing of the past.

    Anyone concerned about someone sleeping rough should contact StreetLink via their website or app. Alerts will be passed on to the local outreach service or council who will attempt to find them and offer support within 48 hours of being contacted. StreetLink is not an emergency service. If anyone is in need of urgent medical attention, please call 999.

    St Mungo’s Recovery College – online for our clients

    By Holly Smith, Strategic Marketing Officer

    St Mungo’s Recovery College offers our clients the opportunity to engage with learning, training and employment, and to rebuild their lives.

    When the pandemic began, we were in the middle of making a film about a proposed move to a new Recovery College base in London.

    But if there’s anything that I’m sure we’ve all learned in 2020, it’s that every tale can take you somewhere you didn’t expect.

    So we used the opportunity for clients to talk about how the Recovery College responded to the pandemic by moving its classes online.

    The four people involved, Adrian, AJay, Charles, Mincer, plus our Digital Inclusion Coordinator James, have shared their creativity and resilience every step of the way during this strange time.

    They adapted to new technology, learning to work differently and navigated connections – both badly behaved internet ones, and the welcome surprises of those connections forged with others as a result of the pandemic. 

    AJay said: “I am glad to be part of [the film] as I really valued what St Mungo’s is doing for our community. I hope that the organisers of the digital courses continue to thrive in making sure that everyone feels valued in the community so both old and new students enjoy the experience of taking part in more classes as they get to meet more students and tutors.” 

    St Mungo’s Recovery College is a completely fundraised service, made possible by the generosity of our partners and donors. Pre pandemic, there were a number of College bases in London and Bristol with another set to open in Leicester.

    By early June there were 24 Remote Recovery College activities for our clients to choose from, with 15 regular weekly group sessions, in addition to personalised progression coaching and employment support.

    The most popular individual sessions have been the happiness and wellbeing project and creative writing, delivered through Google Hangouts and over the phone. ‘Music, arts and culture’, ‘health, wellbeing and personal development’ and Maths and English have all been popular classes. By June we had delivered 60 one to one digital support sessions to enable people to engage with the College and use their digital devices to stay connected.

    One Recovery College client was supported by a progression coach to sign up to an online Level 2 diploma in counselling. This was something he had wanted to do for a number of months, to work towards his long-term ambition to work in mental health.

    Reta Robinson, St Mungo’s Director of Fundraising, said: “The way the Recovery College adapted so nimbly to the challenges of the pandemic has been a real reflection of the innovation and resourcefulness of our staff, clients and volunteers.”

    Gavin Benn, Head of St Mungo’s Recovery College, said: “It’s great to see more and more clients joining our remote Recovery College programme and to hear how it has supported their journey to learn, grow and be inspired, despite often challenging personal circumstances. My thanks to all those involved in making this fantastic film.”

    The Recovery College is running a summer programme until 28 August and then starts its autumn term on 5 October, until 27 November.

    Find out more about our Recovery College here, and watch more on YouTube. Thanks also to film makers Chocolate Films.

    St Mungo’s Remote Recovery College for summer 2020

    Following Government coronavirus guidance, the St Mungo’s Recovery College has reinvented itself to become a flourishing Remote Recovery College. Gavin Benn, Head of Recovery College, shares what’s now available to our clients online.

    Though we have had to suspend face to face activities, our Remote Recovery College is well and truly open and offering a range of classes and activities for our clients in any location to join, either online or over the phone.

    So whether clients are interested in music, art, digital skills, meditation, employment support or more, they can continue to Grow, Learn and Be Inspired through the Remote Recovery College. See how in this short video. 

     

    What are we doing and how

    We are currently providing a total of 24 activities for clients to choose from, with 15 regular weekly group sessions, in addition to personalised progression coaching and employment support. 

    Alongside staff, there are 16 volunteers providing sessions and we have three social work students supporting engagement in digital activities. Thank you so much to them for their generous support.

    Since we started the Remote Recovery College towards the end of April, the most popular individual sessions have been the happiness and wellbeing project and creative writing, delivered through Google Hangouts and over the phone, with 26 people attending the happiness sessions a total of 84 times, and 25 people attending the creative writing course 116 times. 

    Music, arts and culture has been the most popular curriculum area, followed by health, wellbeing and personal development. 

    We have delivered 60 one to one digital support sessions to clients to enable them to engage in the Remote Recovery College and use their digital devices to stay connected.

    One Recovery College client was supported by a progression coach to sign up to an online Level 2 diploma in counselling. This was something the client had wanted to do for a number of months, to work towards his long term ambition to work in mental health. 

    Challenges 

    One of our main challenge remains how clients can access courses. We are using a mix of Google Hangouts, phone calls and uploading some YouTube tutorials and short videos via private links. 

    We are also working with Accumulate, a homelessness arts charity, to get arts resources and activities to clients. Over 400 art packs have already gone out to St Mungo’s clients. 

    Our Client Involvement team and our client representative group, Outside In, are also helping to deliver courses, uploading short wellbeing and peer support videos.  

    And in one of our London hotels, Cardboard Citizens and The Reader have undertaken pilots on art and reading activities as well as puzzles and crosswords.  

    What our clients think 

    We have had very positive feedback from our Remote Recovery College clients already. 

    Attendees of the book group said that it made them feel safe and comfortable”. It was also described as uplifting’ and a “welcome distraction from the boredom of isolation”. Many attendees said that they found the book group so supportive that they were “confident enough to read out loud.”

    Clients said of our happiness and wellbeing course, that it was an “opportunity to express themselves and share their experiences.” They also said that it has helped them to feel less alone. 

    This has been great to hear. We want to continue to help people Grow, Learn and Be Inspired this summer – and keep clients thinking positively about their recovery.

    More information and the full prospectus for the Remote Recovery College is up online. The Remote Recovery College is accessible to all current and previous St Mungo’s clients. 

    If you would like to talk to the Recovery College team, please get in touch on 0203 239 5918 (Mon-Fri, 10am to 5pm) or at recoverycollege@mungos.org

    Having difficult conversations about death

    Andy Knee from our Palliative Care team writes about having difficult conversations about death and provides a few ways that may help having them a little easier.

    Though death happens to everyone, many of us have not spoken to anyone about our concerns, fears or wishes when it comes to our end of life. This may be because we don’t want to. Or it may be that we haven’t thought about discussing it before. Or we don’t know who we could talk to. It may be that we prefer to just focus on the here and now, or have suffered so much that we cannot face talking about it.

    The nature of homelessness itself presents many barriers: complex needs, trauma, substance misuse, living on the streets and multiple health conditions. As a result many individuals live for the moment, prioritising needs in the present rather than focussing on what care they might hope for in the future. It maybe the fear of facing our own mortality. Perhaps our fears could be turned around? Instead of fear, maybe we could focus on what we want. For example, what would living well look like?

    Maybe we can turn fear into hope? Talking about hope when someone is approaching the end of their life may seem like a strange concept, but in having these conversations it enables us to have discussions that identify a person’s wishes and preferences. Those who are homeless are no different and we all deserve to die with dignity and respect.

    Someone once told me that by accepting death they were able to embrace life. Some might say this is a strange thing to say. But death is a natural part of life.

    What can we do?

    This is a difficult question to ask. We may think to ourselves “I don’t have the skills. I’m not an expert” or “I don’t know what to say. I might make things worse!” and this is perfectly natural. So here are a few things that may help.

    • We shouldn’t be afraid to talk. We don’t need to wait until we are sick, before we talk about dying. We may all chose to speak to different people about our fears, concerns, wishes and what’s important to us, be it friends or health professionals. Talking about what would happen should our health get worse, will not make it happen – it may make us feel more in control.
    • Parallel Planning: Hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. By using parallel planning we are maintaining hope, but are ready for the worst case scenarios. We have those difficult conversations, but always maintain hope.
    • Our life, our choices: To try and ensure we are treated as we chose towards the end of our lives, we may choose to have our wishes written down (for example: What music we like? How we would like to be remembered?)
    • Making our voice heard: we can decide how we want to be cared for including refusing treatment if we wish.

    Dying Matters Week 2021

    This year’s Dying Matters Week is 10-16 May and will focus on the importance of being in a good place to die. More information on the week here. 

    Knocked Back: A tragic loss of human potential

    Our Knocked Back report revealed that at least 12,000 people who are homeless are missing out on potentially life-saving drug and alcohol treatment. Oliver Standing, Director of Collective Voice, reflects on the report’s findings.

    Collective Voice is the national alliance of drug and alcohol treatment charities, whose members collectively support 200,000 people every year. A substantial proportion of these people will not only be dealing with a substance misuse problem but with other areas of severe and multiple disadvantage, including homelessness.

    For this reason, we welcome the publication of St Mungo’s latest report, Knocked Back, highlighting the growing prevalence of drug and alcohol use by people sleeping rough, and its increasingly tragic consequences.

    It will be sadly unsurprising to many in our sector to read that drugs and alcohol caused the deaths of 380 people sleeping rough in 2018 (over half the total number of people who died). But we must remain shocked and appalled at this growing public health crisis, and stay resolute in our ambition to reach the huge numbers sleeping rough who desperately need treatment but at present are not getting it – 12,000 people according to the St Mungo’s report.

    Every year people in the substance misuse treatment sector anticipate with sickening dread the latest drug death statistics. And with every year in recent times bringing more bad news, the dread only increases. In 2018, we know that hundreds of people sleeping rough died as a result of drugs or alcohol. The total number of drug related deaths are even higher, at 4,359. That’s the largest amount since we started counting in 1993 and a 16% leap from 2017’s figures. Those statistics alone make for disturbing reading.

    But what’s really disturbing are the human stories behind the statistics. Our communities have lost fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who will no longer fulfil the promise their parents saw in their bright eyes as children, will no longer laugh or love. These are not just numbers, but a tragic loss of human potential.

    It can sometimes seem hard to determine the real-world impact of public policy making. But surely the seemingly unstoppable increase of this particular type of death marks a clear and significant failure of the public policy and political leadership necessary to protect a very vulnerable group of people.

    When it comes to people who use drugs and sleep rough we can’t ignore stigma as a factor. When people are dying on our streets from conditions we know how to treat we must ask ourselves the question — what is different about this group of people that allows this to happen well into 21st century Britain?

    The most frustrating aspect of this? That the evidence on what works is so very clear. We have a world class compendium of evidence in our “Orange Book” and multiple NICE guidelines. We have a substance use workforce not short of ambition, compassion and expertise.

    It’s welcome to see St Mungo’s Knocked Back report make clear the link between homelessness and drug related deaths. It demonstrates how some substance use outreach services, so vital in reaching people sleeping rough, have been lost in the blizzard of local authority cuts.

    While in 2013, local government was handed the responsibility for commissioning life-saving substance misuse treatment services, but it was asked to do so with one hand tied behind its back. In the eight years to 2020 local government has lost 60 pence in every pound it received from national government.

    It’s welcome to see the report stress the importance of close partnership work across the domains of severe and multiple disadvantage. People’s challenges simply do not resolve into the neat concepts such as ‘substance use’ or ‘mental ill health’ we use to think about the delivery of public services.

    On the frontline, practitioners have of course always known that partnership working across those boundaries is essential. The same can be said for service-managers, commissioners and Chief Executives. National programmes such as Fulfilling Lives and MEAM are making robust coordinated attempts to bring together these services at the local level. These are all to be welcomed.

    In the sector, we have the compassion, ambition and expertise to meet the needs of a great proportion of the people we support — we just lack the resource.

    The government’s new addictions strategy and monitoring unit should both be unveiled this year and will provide important opportunities to drive much needed change.

    I implore the government to set out an ambitious plan for preventing further deaths through the delivery of adequately funded evidence-based services — and I know that effective partnership between the substance use and homeless sectors will be essential in supporting the delivery of such a plan.

    Read our Knocked Back research.

    Find out more about Collective Voice.

    Calling on the Government for Housing First, not housing only

    Photo of St Mungo's staff during appointment with client

    The centrepiece of the new Conservative Government’s commitment to end rough sleeping is an expansion of the Housing First scheme. Dave Wilson, Impact & Evaluation Officer, shares some new research about St Mungo’s own Housing First services and discusses how they offer a potential solution to our rough sleeping crisis.

    It was easy to miss it, but the major parties made big commitments on homelessness in this election. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all gave manifesto pledges to eliminate rough sleeping – the most extreme and dangerous form of homelessness – from our streets altogether.

    As the dust settles on the result, one of the things we at St Mungo’s have been thinking about is how the new Conservative government will deliver on their pledge to end rough sleeping by 2024.

    The Conservative manifesto makes it clear that the government sees an expansion of Housing First – an internationally proven approach to tackling rough sleeping – as a big part of the answer.

    And so, now seems like a good time to share the work we have been doing recently about some of our own Housing First services, in Brighton and Hove, and Westminster.

    An in-depth look at how Housing First operates in the UK

    Housing First services look quite different to conventional homelessness services. In Housing First, individuals who are sleeping rough are given direct access to independent accommodation without going through a homeless hostel or shelter. From there they are offered intensive, holistic support from support workers.

    Study after study has shown Housing First to be a very effective solution to homelessness. But much of this research comes from the US and the housing system and homelessness services work very differently there. We wanted to explore in more detail what Housing First looks like in practice in a UK setting.

    Our new research, published this week in partnership with the University of Salford, looks at two St Mungo’s Housing First services in Brighton and Hove, and Westminster. Both areas face very similar challenges: an overheated housing market, a severe shortage of social housing and some of the highest levels of rough sleeping in the country.

    An effective solution, but practical constraints

    For us, there are three main lessons from the research:

    1. Housing First can be an effective solution to rough sleeping in the UK.
      Both projects work with clients who have chaotic housing histories. In many cases, these individuals had been through and struggled with the system of conventional homelessness services on multiple occasions. But the research found that the Housing First teams were very effective at supporting these clients to sustain independent tenancies. Crucially, even when clients struggled to maintain the tenancy or were evicted, they continued to receive support from their Housing First support worker. This was often an important platform to help them get things back on track.
    2. Some of the Housing First principles are compromised by lack of housing options.
      We learned that there are serious challenges to operating a Housing First service in the form originally intended in these areas. One of the principles underlying Housing First is that clients should have choice and control over where they live and security of tenure. Both of those are hard to achieve in cities where private housing is shockingly expensive and social housing waiting lists stretch thousands long.
    3. Partnership working is key to success in Housing First.
      Clients in Housing First services often have a range of complex, interrelated needs. Support is most effective when it is provided by a skilled, multidisciplinary team covering specialisms like drug and alcohol treatment, mental health and employment skills. The model is at its best when it is Housing First, not housing only. It is also vital for services to cultivate good relationships with private sector and social landlords. The research highlighted this in Westminster in particular, where all Housing First clients were able to access secure social accommodation via a single housing association, Sanctuary.

    Housing First should be part of a wider strategy to tackle rough sleeping

    Last year, the government announced £28 million of new funding for three Housing First pilots, in the West Midlands, Liverpool and Greater Manchester.

    Our research strengthens the case that Housing First is an effective solution to rough sleeping, and we welcome these schemes.

    But we also know that Housing First works best if the wider environment is right. £1 billion has been cut from vital homelessness services in the past decade. There is a lot of ground to make up to ensure everyone sleeping rough has the right, tailored package of support for them.

    That is why we are calling on the government in our Home for Good campaign to take the bold action needed to end rough sleeping for good.

    • Firstly, it must ensure an adequate supply of social housing.
    • Secondly, it must make the private rented sector more secure and more affordable.
    • And thirdly, it needs to provide long-term guaranteed funding for homelessness services. This includes Housing First, but it should not be limited to it.

    More Housing First is a good idea, but without these wider changes, the Government will not be able to follow through on its pledge and end rough sleeping for good.

    Read the full report and our summary.

    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

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