Anne-Marie on climbing Ben Nevis

    Image: Ben Nevis

    Last week a group of St Mungo’s staff, supporters, volunteers and clients climbed Ben Nevis. Anne-Marie a client of St Mungo’s shares her story.

    Hi my name’s Anne-Marie and I’ve lived in a St Mungo’s project for a year and a half now. When I was asked if I wanted to climb Ben Nevis I realised that the challenge was not only climbing the mountain, but the social aspect in itself was a challenge too due to my anxiety.

    I had a few conversations with Natalie the manager at my project regarding Ben Nevis and we both felt disillusioned in terms of actually climbing the mountain and its difficulty. But, I wanted to push myself and I wanted to start and complete something. I wanted to prove to myself that ‘beyond fear lies freedom’.

    On 10 September, I and 48 others travelled to Scotland to climb Ben Nevis. We arrived at the hostel where I shared a room with Natalie and two others. It was actually loads of fun and we had lots of laughs. I woke up on the day of the climb quite excited.

    I hadn’t fully realised what I was about to embark on! After less than a minute of walking, we encountered our first incline. It was appropriately named ‘heart attack hill’. It was so, so steep! I started to doubt I’d be able to make it to the top.

    Image: Annie Marie climbing Ben NevisI was constantly at the back of my group having to catch up. My team literally saved me though. They carried my rucksack the whole way so that it was easier for me. Halfway up, the guide gave me his walking sticks too. Younis, a fellow team member, helped immensely. He told me to stop as often as I needed to and that he’d stick with me regardless.

    As we were nearing the top, the guide suggested to Beth that I and two others should turn back as we were running out of time in the cold weather. When they asked me, I said no – I have come too far to go back now! We were literally 30 minutes from being on top of the highest mountain in Great Britain.

    After, I had a small wobble and told Younis I wanted to go down but he strongly encouraged me to carry on, so I persevered. I am so incredibly happy that I did! I made it to the top! It took a mighty effort getting up there.

    At the top, we were in the clouds, being hammered by 50mph winds, whilst rain that felt like tiny bullets were hitting our faces. The sense of achievement was overwhelming. There was one problem though – now we had to get back down!

    Going down the mountain was an extremely different type of challenge. It was actually pretty scary! With the cliff edge being adjacent to you and the path relatively narrow, it was quite nerve racking – especially as the paths had unstable rocks and stones.

    Going down reinforced my disbelief and utter amazement that I just climbed Ben Nevis because it was so steep! Most of the groups we were in initially became dispersed on the way down and there were pockets of people scattered all over.

    Going down, the path felt treacherous but everyone’s mentality was amazing. I found myself walking down alone at one point; I fell on my ankle and members of another group supported me to get back on my feet.

    Towards the very end, my legs felt so extremely weak and as if they were trembling. I had to dig deep and persevere. The feeling when I got back to the hostel was not only relief, but elation that I had just got to the highest point in the whole of Great Britain! What an incredible achievement.

    I couldn’t have completed it, if not for my awesome team. The encouragement and support, the laughs and smiles, the group determination and fight all combined had such a significant impact. I felt like we were all in the challenge as one. The unity we had had such a positive influence. We were all united in the sense of pride we felt, not only for ourselves, but for the whole St Mungo’s team.

    Collectively, we prevailed over the physical and mental challenge that Ben Nevis presented us with. I am so glad that I was a part of this, not only did I overcome a huge challenge but I met some truly awesome people.

    Climbing the mountain and meeting people like Steve and Beth has inspired me to push my body and I am now thinking of working towards running a half marathon. Ben Nevis certainly will have a lasting impact!

    Find out more about Team Mungo’s climbing Ben Nevis.

    St Mungo’s Annual Hiking Challenge

    Image: Scafell Pike

    Our Community and Events Manager, Beth, has helped organise our annual hiking challenge since its inception three years ago. She shares her experience from previous treks, what she’s expecting for this year’s Ben Nevis climb and why the challenge is such a collaborative effort.


    Listen to Beth’s full interview or read our Q&A below.

    Tell us a bit about yourself

    I work in our fundraising team and manage our community, events and regional fundraising teams. I have been involved with our client hiking challenge for the last three years. This year for our third challenge and also our 50th anniversary we are taking on Ben Nevis in Scotland.

    How did the challenge begin?

    Our clients were asked in a senior leadership meeting how they can help support fundraising and give back to St Mungo’s and challenge themselves in their road to recovery. Two of our fantastic clients Claire and Mandy came up with the idea of climbing up some mountains.

    They came up with the very first client-led trip up Mount Snowdon, supported Scafell Pike last year and are joining us for Ben Nevis this year. You can read about Mandy’s journey from homelessness to Mount Snowdon on our blog.

    Image: Mandy on St Mungo's Hiking Challenge

    What is your role?

    My role is to oversee the trip and make sure everything is in place and organised. Mandy and Claire sign off final details; they are very much my bosses not the other way round.

    This year there are 50 people climbing Ben Nevis, a mix of clients, volunteers, staff and supporters. Why do you think the hiking challenge has become so popular?

    We chose to include 50 people to mark our 50th anniversary.

    It is a chance to give our clients a reward for their recovery and an opportunity to explore a new area. Our team is very supportive and when we climb up a mountain our labels get left at the bottom. For clients, where you are in your recovery gets left at the bottom.

    It is just a wonderful thing to offer and that’s why it is so popular for everybody. I feel really privileged that we get to do it year on year.

    Why do you think it is so important to do as a group challenge?

    For some clients who went on Scafell Pike, we saw them really move forward after the trip. A few people have found their own accommodation, they have jobs and they are getting really involved in other St Mungo’s activities.

    It is my job to make sure the second we get down we are talking about the next steps for clients.

    What is your favourite memory from one of the hiking trips?

    One of our female clients really struggled last year. She had a knee operation a year before we went up Scafell Pike. She was struggling and lost her confidence. Another client on his own accord took her bag, held her hand and helped her up the mountain.

    It is that selflessness, empowerment and team spirit that for me is so memorable.

    What has the hiking trip taught you over the years?

    It has taught me a lot about our clients. It has taught me that recovery isn’t linear. You don’t get someone off the street, get someone into a house, get them a job and then it’s all okay. It just doesn’t always work like that.

    I have learnt that if I am consistent with clients and staff, touch base and check that they are okay then people will trust you and relax themselves.

    These hikes give you a chance to get to know people from all walks of life. We are really blessed at St Mungo’s that we are such a diverse group of people. People are always open to get to know each other. It is a good group this year, I am excited.

    Find out more about this year’s Ben Nevis trip.

    Five ways to volunteer your time to help end homelessness

    Mental Health Awareness Week Event

    50 years after St Mungo’s came into existence, it remains a national scandal that so many people are forced to sleep rough on the streets. What remains heartening though, is that so many people also want to find a way to make a difference. In my role as Head of Volunteering, Apprenticeships and Placements, I am regularly asked ‘what can I do to help?’ People often say that they want to make a difference but they’re not sure how. As a charity, we are always looking to harness the goodwill and talents of people who want to donate their time. So, with this in mind, and as we celebrate Volunteers’ Week, here are five practical ways that you can volunteer your time and support St Mungo’s to end homelessness.

    Support someone who is rough sleeping

    Rough sleeping is the most visible form of homelessness and also the most dangerous. There are a number of ways you can support people who are sleeping rough.

    When the public sees someone sleeping rough in their area, they are encouraged to tell StreetLink, a St Mungo’s run service that connects people to local services that can support them away from the streets. StreetLink is volunteer-led, and they welcome voluntary support all year round, helping respond to referrals made over the phone, online and through their app.

    Referrals from StreetLink help thousands of people sleeping rough access support each year, but our Outreach teams have a lot of ground to cover and our client group is often moving. This means that around 50% of referrals are not found. This is where First Response comes in. First Response volunteers go out to areas to verify referrals and pass on accurate information to the Outreach teams. Volunteers are needed for early and late shifts, playing an essential role so Outreach teams can find people sleeping rough and get them the help that they need.

    Help our clients get creative

    There is lots of research suggesting that if you are in recovery, the opportunity to have a creative outlet helps you to manage emotions, learn new skills and engage in group settings. At St Mungo’s, we support clients through a recovery approach. A big part of this involves encouraging clients to engage with creative activities, either at their accommodation or at our Recovery Colleges. If you have a skill in the arts, music or drama, then you can pass on your knowledge to our clients and facilitate a vital step in their recovery journey.

    Improve health outcomes

    Rough sleeping is dangerous, and the effects of homelessness will often have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of our clients. Our services work with our clients with the aim of improving their access to health services, while decreasing health inequalities for those whose housing situation is vulnerable and/or temporary. Demystifying health conditions and treatment is an important part of this. We involve volunteers with a medical background and qualifications, or those in training, to develop and deliver workshops on a range of health topics including nutrition, mental wellbeing, healthy lifestyles, nutrition, diet, physical activity, diabetes, substance use, blood-borne viruses (BBV) and sexual health.

    Help our clients learn to read and write

    For many of us, settling down with a good book is a pleasure. However at the end of the last financial year, around 17% of our clients needed support with literacy. Not being able to read or write can make even some of the most everyday tasks very difficult. Volunteers at our Recovery Colleges and across St Mungo’s, support clients to develop their literacy skills and increase their confidence in a friendly, inclusive environment.

    Cook up a storm

    Food – who doesn’t love food? We know that giving our clients the skills and knowledge to cook healthy and nutritious food on a budget will help them to move away from homelessness and towards independence. If there are budding Jamie Olivers among you, running a cooking class in one of our accommodation services will make a real difference as we prepare our clients for independent living.


    Volunteering at St Mungo’s gives you the opportunity to make a real difference to some of the most vulnerable in society. We value our volunteers and the contribution they make. A comprehensive induction and training programme, and ongoing support from a central team and your local supervisor, will be an important part of your volunteering journey with us.

    We have been accredited with Investing in Volunteers since 2011 and, just this month, we were reaccredited, thanks to the sustained quality of our volunteer management practices.

    Our volunteering opportunities are available on our website, and our recruitment sessions, which run twice monthly, will help you to understand the impact of your contribution.

    Happy Volunteers’ Week 2019, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

    New homelessness boards

    Administrative tinkering or an opportunity to end rough sleeping for good?

    Photo of Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer
    Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer

    Last week the Government finished its first stage of consultation on a shake up to local authority structures for tackling homelessness. Changes to statutory structures may not be something that gets the heart racing, but when it comes to delivering the changes and funding needed to end rough sleeping for good, they could have a key role to play, writes Rory Weal, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer for St Mungo’s.

    Rough sleeping – the most dangerous form of homelessness – has risen by 165% since 2010. This is the result of spiralling housing costs, increasing insecurity for private renters and cuts to services that prevent homelessness – all problems that require national Government to act.

    And yet, it is actually local authorities who are charged with the primary day-to-day responsibility for tackling homelessness. Since the Homelessness Reduction Act (HRA) came into force last year, this responsibility has expanded to include providing advice and support to anyone at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness.

    What are Homelessness Reduction Boards?

    The latest government proposal – to create Homelessness Reduction Boards in local authorities – builds on the positive momentum achieved by the HRA, and the Rough Sleeping Strategy, to get a grip on the growing homelessness crisis in England. The proposal is an attempt to ensure all relevant public services and agencies step up as members of these new boards, and they are held to account for their part in preventing and reducing homelessness and rough sleeping.

    So far so good. But as many of us know, central Government hasn’t made this job easy for local authorities of late.

    A challenging backdrop

    Recent research from St Mungo’s and Homeless Link, published last month, shows that local authority spending on services for single homeless people fell by 53% between 2008-09 to 2017-18. This drop is the result of cuts in funding from central government, particularly impacting ‘Supporting People’ services, which focus on helping people to avoid and escape homelessness. Add to this the wider issues of a lack of social rented housing, unaffordability and instability in the private rented sector, and welfare reforms, and we see a dangerous combination of factors which have increased individuals’ vulnerability to homelessness.

    So with such a challenging backdrop, how can an administrative change really be expected to deliver the impact required to end rough sleeping? The short answer is that on its own, it can’t.

    But there are a couple of reasons why this is a more than worthwhile exercise:

    • Firstly, because at the local level there is a huge variation in the way any strategic response to homelessness is developed, implemented and monitored. Sometimes this means that elements of the ‘system’, such as health services, are failing to play their part.
    • Secondly, because we believe these new structures could be the vehicles for central Government to deliver the resources councils need to tackle the problem.

    Investing the funding that’s needed

    We believe Homelessness Reduction Boards – or a similar set-up where good oversight and accountability is assured – should provide Government with the confidence to invest the extra £1 billion in homelessness services that we know is needed. Having mandatory structures closely scrutinising what services deliver, key partners such as the NHS, prisons and children’s services working to prevent homelessness, and collecting data to demonstrate and respond to this, should satisfy Government that each pound will be spent effectively.

    The jury is still out on the impact this could have. As always the devil will be in the detail. The principles of these new Boards, however, seem sound and provide an opportunity to secure the funding desperately needed for homelessness services.

    This shouldn’t avert our focus from the other vital changes required – including building more social homes and improving private renting. Only when these solutions come together will we see everyone have a home for good, and a country in which no one faces the injustice of sleeping rough.

    Read our full response to the consultation.

    Click here to call on your MP to help reverse the cuts to homelessness services and make sure everyone has a Home for Good.

    Helping women who are homeless after a prison sentence

    All people returning from prison are at risk of homelessness, but women face specific complex issues. Ruth Legge from our Offender Services, explains how St Mungo’s works with women while they are in prison, and after release, to help them find long term accommodation.

    You may have seen recent news that the Government has shelved plans for five new community prisons for women. These were to be residential centres where women are given access to training and therapy to help them break out of cycles of re-offending.

    We were disappointed to see this, as we believe our work with women offenders, when they are in prison and after they are released, offers a strong model for support. St Mungo’s has been working in women’s prison for many years and we think we have a good understanding of, and insight, into their specific needs.

    In our experience, women leaving prison face many complex issues around homelessness. Offending behaviour can be linked to poor mental health, drug and/or alcohol use, partner violence, other sexual violence, loss of child custody, childhood and adult trauma and gang affiliation, to name just a few. On top of that, there is a lack of suitable housing where women can feel safe, secure and start to rebuild their lives.

    A Catch-22 situation

    Women are often the primary care givers for their children prior to being jailed. Once a woman’s children have been removed from her care, she becomes at greater risk of homelessness. The family home might be taken away from her, as she is no longer seen as needing so many rooms. The council might also no longer consider her a ‘priority need’ to be rehoused if the children are not returned to her care upon release.

    Many women in prison find themselves in a ‘catch-22’ scenario. They are only granted custody of their children if they have suitable accommodation in place after they are released. But more often than not the local authority won’t help to provide any accommodation until they already have custody. In these cases we work alongside social services, statutory authorities and Reunite programmes to support women in finding accommodation, with or without their children.

    Domestic violence

    Domestic violence is also a big issue. Some women in custody have tenancies when they come to prison but can’t return because a violent partner is still residing in the property.

    Many women flee their homes in order to escape from domestic violence. Often they are too scared to contact the police. The council may then deem them “intentionally homeless” and isn’t under any obligation to help them find accommodation.

    We see a lot of women who were rough sleeping prior to custody, even though they still hold a tenancy. They often tell us they feel safer on the street than returning to live with a violent partner. Some women feel they have no choice but to return to violent partners. They tell us that, because they are coming from prison, they feel they won’t be believed or provided with appropriate safe accommodation.

    We work with domestic violence teams and help refer women to refuges if they cannot return to their homes. We also support them to appeal claims that they are intentionally homeless.

    Some women we work with are involved in prostitution. Because they are active at night, but sleep during the day, if they are staying in a hostel they are at risk of being evicted if the hostel says they aren’t spending enough nights there.

    These rooms are sometimes the only place a woman has to call her own and feel safe in, so we try to liaise with hostels to keep bed spaces open. There is almost always a link between involvement in prostitution and substance use. Women who are still using drugs and alcohol are at particular risk of homelessness as they are usually not able to sustain independent accommodation, nor would the local authority deem them a priority need for accommodation.

    The Government has several new and forthcoming strategies on issues such as female offending, rough sleeping and domestic abuse. St Mungo’s believes there must be clear and consistent links between them all in order to achieve a difference in the lives of the women we support.

    Dedication and commitment

    Adil and Mohammed pictured above with Horn of Africa project manager, Pippa Brown

    To mark Refugee Week, Helen Kirk, Refugee Skills Development Advisor at St Mungo’s Horn of Africa Health and Wellbeing Project, tells us about two inspirational people who volunteer on the project

    The Horn of Africa Project was set up in in 2013 to respond to the needs of people from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan who were turning to our centre in Shepherd’s Bush for support. Over half of our clients have been recognised as refugees within the last few years. We help them with advice, signposting and one-to-one holistic casework.

    Employment outcomes for refugees are well below the UK average, with over half of those employed feeling overqualified in their jobs. It’s my job to help bridge this gap, through things like one-to-one careers coaching, providing advice on education and training, co-facilitating peer-led groups and creating volunteer opportunities.

    Our project is supported by a small number of fantastic volunteers, but this Refugee Week, we would like to particularly thank Adil and Mohammed, who both sought sanctuary in the UK. Despite the many challenges they have faced, they both have shown dedication and commitment to the project. They have helped with casework, shared their ideas and their knowledge about the practical and cultural needs of the Horn of Africa community, and have given us suggestions for how the project might respond to those needs.

    Adil says: “When I came over to this country, I was very much in need of help. The only people I found to offer me this support was St Mungo’s. They taught me how the humanity look like. For this reason I strongly need to involve in this community to reduce destitution amongst the refugee and homelessness… I am very fascinated of helping the destitute people as I am one of them and born in a very poor environment, that is why I know how the person feel when he is in a trauma or suffer a loss.”

    Mohammed told us: “I … volunteer because I’m a refugee and was homeless at one point in my life. I want to give back to the people who are in need of any help.”

    Mohammed and Adil are working towards rebuilding their respective careers in law and finance, and are re-qualifying at university. They are driven to support others as they do so. They both recently won Volunteer of the Year London Awards at St Mungo’s Volunteer Awards in partnership with the Marsh Christian Trust, and we can’t think of two people who deserve it more. I feel privileged to work alongside them while they fulfil their goals.

    Find out more about the contributions refugees have made across the world.

    Thanks to our award-winning volunteers

    Iver Morgan, our Head of Volunteering, Apprenticeships and Placements, thanks our amazing and dedicated volunteers as Volunteers’ Week 2018 comes to a close.

    On Monday I had the great pleasure of hosting our annual Volunteering Awards celebration in Southwark.

    This is a wonderful occasion when we get to say thank you and present awards to some of our outstanding volunteers who’ve supported our clients and our work over the past 12 months – and in many cases, much longer. Once again, we held this at the Table Café, who generously support us in many ways throughout the year.

    One award recipient was Jen Burnham, who’s helped us publish our Homeless Diamonds magazine for 20 years. I encourage you to read her blog about how she got started and what she enjoys about it – a great read.

    I’d also like to thank the Marsh Christian Trust, who enabled us to present these awards for the last four years. We very much appreciate their support.

    Over an average year around 900 people volunteer with us. They provide support to outreach services, helping people sleeping rough, run activity groups and offer information and advice. This makes it very difficult to pick out individuals.

    However, alongside Jen, we thought this year that awards should go to Mohammed, Adil, Tee, Juliet and Rebecca.

    Volunteers of the Year went to Mohammed and Adil. They volunteer with the Horn of Africa Health and Wellbeing Project in London, which was set up in 2013 to respond to the needs of individuals from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan who had been affected by homelessness. The project is funded by Big Lottery Fund, through the Reaching Communities funding stream, and provides advice on entitlements, access to physical and mental health services, work and learning opportunities, community activities and support to overcome isolation. Mohammed and Adil had both previously approached the project for support when they found themselves homeless as a result of being recognised as a refugee and wanted to give something back. This is a fantastic achievement.

    Outstanding Achievement (London) went to Tee. She is a volunteer with the Women’s Group of our client body, Outside In, and facilitates creative and therapeutic sessions each month with women across St Mungo’s services. She is also a Client Advisory Board Member and meets with the Board of Trustees every six weeks to work on the strategic aims of the organisation and ensure the client voice is heard at the top level of governance. Tee draws on her own experiences and uses this as her motivation. Tee spoke in Parliament recently on behalf of St Mungo’s at an event led by SafeLives, a charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse.

    We were also pleased to recognise volunteers who work with us in the south west of England.

    Volunteer of the Year (south west) is Juliet. She volunteers with the Bristol Assertive Contact and Engagement (ACE) service, where she is an invaluable asset to the service, thanks to her unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and energy. She volunteers with the Women’s Morning wellbeing support group, the Breathing Space group, which provides mental health support for single parents in Knowle West and the LGBTQ+ group, One World. The team says “she goes above and beyond what is expected of her by stepping in and helping whenever she is needed”.

    Outstanding Achievement (south west) went to Rebecca. She now volunteers as a Peer Mentor at Mulberry House and Mews in Bath but since completing Peer Mentor training, she has offered a different form of arts or crafts each week. This has engaged clients and enabled them to try a range of new things. She is now able to offer one-to-one support to clients both at Mulberry and in the local community.

    Volunteers are an integral part of St Mungo’s and we recognise and value the huge contribution they make. In return, we aim to offer a rewarding experience by providing opportunities to make a significant contribution to help end homelessness, to develop skills in a supportive environment, access training and meet like-minded people.

    If you’ve been inspired, please do take a look at our Volunteering opportunities. We look forward to hearing from you.

    ‘Giving people a fresh start in life’

    “We help people who are living in their own homes but need support to ensure they are able to keep a roof over their head.” Ola Pedro, Team Leader at St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team North, tells us about how his team supports people who previously slept rough to live independently in the community.

    St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST) North works with people who formerly slept rough and who are now housed across North London. Our team supports them to maintain their tenancies and to further develop their skills and confidence to move on into independent accommodation – moving away from homelessness for good.

    We want to make sure people are socially included. We link them with packages of support, as needed – around mental health, substance misuse, employment, ex-offending, offending – as well as other activities to help them sustain their tenancies and feel part of the wider community.

    ‘We carry out home visits to make sure that people are living safely’

    We work with people who are often tackling three or more health and other issues, for example, substance use, risk of offending, and or physical and mental health problems. The sector jargon would be ‘high needs’ clients and they can need a lot more intense one to one support.

    We carry out home visits regularly to check that people are living safely. If there are any issues around their support needs, these can be represented in how they live. For example, if a person is going through severe depression, the state of their property can reveal that. These visits mean we can make sure the person is comfortable in their home, in their area, and to identify any maintenance issues or anything that landlords need to be aware of.

    Benefits are a major issue at the moment. The roll out of Universal Credit has caused a lot of stress for our clients. We are finding many people are having to go without money while their applications are being processed, for six to eight weeks. This is something that TST staff have had to pick up. If not, it creates issues which permeate into every other area of people’s lives and means they need even more support. We help people, for example, by offering food vouchers and topping up their electricity and gas, if needed. We have drop-ins every Monday and Friday, so people can also come in and sit down with us for some support if they want.

    ‘I feel joy when I go home’

    I got into St Mungo’s through volunteering at St Mungo’s Islington Mental Health Team. I tried a corporate job but just didn’t find it rewarding. I like the dynamism of this role – it’s extremely active, you’re never in once place for a long time. I’m the team manager but I also work with clients, I support around 55 clients myself. I’ll visit about four or five clients in one day, each needing different kinds of support, so it’s about balancing that with the managing and admin side of the role.

    I feel joy when I go home as I know I’m making a difference. I’m improving the quality of people’s lives – taking them from a place where they are not so happy to a place where they can feel confident, and our team are part of that process.

    ‘Giving people a fresh start in life’

    I supported one person, for example, who had his tenancy taken over by a group of drug dealers. They were force feeding him crack cocaine and heroin, just so they could use his accommodation to cook and to sell the drugs.

    He didn’t actually tell me this had happened until I got a phone call to say that he’d been admitted into hospital for abscesses on his arms and hands from injecting. He had also been beaten up really badly.

    When I went to the hospital, I had a really long discussion with him about why he didn’t want to tell me this. He said there were a lot of feelings of guilt and shame around why he didn’t want to tell me what had happened.

    We worked together very closely over the next three months and he’s now been rehoused away from that area. He got a chance to start a fresh life and went to rehab. He’s completely clean of the drugs that were forcibly put in his system.

    When I go home and think about that story, that’s what drives me and makes me want to do this job always.

    Taking on our biggest challenge for St Mungo’s

    Residential property specialist, Chestertons, has supported St Mungo’s since 2015, hosting events for our clients, raising vital funds in their offices and through sporting challenges, and getting involved first hand with our Real Lettings and outreach projects. Allan Collins, CEO of Chestertons, and his son, Sam Collins, a Human Resources Advisor at Chestertons, tell us why they have taken on their biggest fundraising challenge to date – the London Marathon 2018.


    I’ve seen a lot of things since we partnered with St Mungo’s, and it’s changed my attitude to homelessness in London and giving back to the community. One of my motivations is that our staff have chosen this charity. Although I knew very little about it before the partnership, since being involved, you notice much more about homelessness and people who are homeless. I think I’m probably guilty of walking past a homeless person without thinking about it. Now at least I think about it and wonder whether there has been a StreetLink report for that person out on the streets.

    On 22 April, my son Sam and I will take on the Virgin Money London Marathon to support St Mungo’s. One of the things I noticed having spoken to people at St Mungo’s is how committed everybody I’ve come across is, and how they really want to make a difference. It makes you fired up and want to do the same. Although training in the winter is hard, you have to think that at least we are not sleeping outside and can come back inside afterwards.

    I recently went on my first outreach shift at night with St Mungo’s Outreach Worker, Kevin. I was quite surprised at the number of people sleeping rough in London; it did shock me somewhat. I was also surprised at the amount of preparation we did before we went out on the shift.

    One thing that especially struck me was how much Kevin knew about everybody we met – he had come across most of them before. He was very good at finding out information to help people rough sleeping into accommodation.

    A person can end up on the streets for many reasons. It could be bad luck, the end of a tenancy, it could be addiction, or mental health. Kevin did a fantastic job dealing with all the different people and the different reasons they were there, trying to get them into accommodation. He had a good relationship with them; the ones he had met before trusted him.


    We were discussing earlier about how cold it is to go out running in the winter, but when you think about people actually homeless on the street every night, that’s one of my big motivations for running the marathon. It’s horrible to see people just walk past and not see someone as a person – so to treat these people as people and not just walk past them is motivation and this sort of spurs me on to train through the cold winter. I’m out there for a few hours, they are out there all night.

    Between us we have taken on three half marathons – although the Royal Parks one was really hard so I’m worried about the London Marathon. But it’s a good learning curve to start training.

    A key thing we do at Chestertons is raise money for St Mungo’s because that’s how the charity can develop and continue to support their clients.

    A lot of people in the business have fundraised for St Mungo’s, our senior management team and charity committee abseiled down the ArcelorMittal Orbit at Halloween.

    A couple of members of my team are very keen to shave parts of my body for this good cause. I don’t know how keen on this I am – but they are pushing for that!

    Our part is just something that goes to help St Mungo’s – if everyone raises a little bit it can go a long way.

    If you would like to take on a challenge for St Mungos, please take a look at our current event places.

    Helping people inside from extreme weather

    Dan Olney, St Mungo’s Assistant Director of Pan London Street Homeless and Outreach Services, tells us about Severe Emergency Weather Protocol (SWEP), the emergency response to prevent homeless people from dying or developing serious health conditions in extreme weather.

    Sleeping rough is harmful and dangerous any time of year. Our outreach teams, and others across the country, go out early morning and late at night throughout the year to find people who are sleeping rough and to support them away from the streets.

    However, when there’s a “Beast from the East” or Storm Emma, it really can mean life-threatening temperatures for anyone who is street homeless.

    The Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is an emergency response to prevent deaths of people sleeping rough during winter.

    SWEP is activated by local authorities across the country when temperatures are forecast to be lower than zero degrees for three nights, or in London for one night.

    St Mungo’s supports SWEP actions across London and the south and south west of England where our 17 outreach teams are based, working alongside other organisations and with a range of local authorities in Oxford, Bournemouth, Brighton, Reading, and Bristol for example.

    ‘An additional safety net’

    In London, we are also commissioned by the Greater London Authority to operate the ‘pan London SWEP’ provision. This essentially provides additional capacity emergency beds for people, when local borough provision is full. This acts as an additional safety net, if the temperatures drop for a sustained period – which they have over the last week. This is the longest period of sustained SWEP in seven years.

    We’ve not had a winter like this in many years and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and response from the public, volunteers, partners and St Mungo’s staff. Across London, we currently have around 100 people in emergency shelters who would otherwise have been sleeping out in freezing temperatures. We’ve made around 150 bedspaces available – and yes, welcomed in dogs as well as people as much as possible, and worked in partnership with dogs’ homes and other charities to offer kennelling or other options so that having a dog wasn’t a barrier to the person coming in. We’ve even had a cat in as well!

    When people come in, it’s not luxury but it is warm, there are hot drinks, the chance for a wash and a chat with people. We also use the opportunity to talk to people about their situation and see how we could help people to move away from the streets for good, not just while the weather is extreme. The extreme cold has meant some people have been persuaded to come inside and have those conversations when perhaps they were reluctant previously.

    We are continuing to run SWEP shelters over this weekend, and outreach workers continue to check and follow up referrals for anyone still out, for whatever reason. And rest assured, our outreach work won’t end when the weather improves. Teams will still be out, night and day, helping people with the first steps to rebuilding their lives.

    What can you do to help?

    • Refer someone you are concerned about to local support through the StreetLink website or app
    • Contact your local homelessness organisation and see what kind of practical help they need.
    • Give – either your time, or your donations. For example, in London, the London Homeless Charities Group has set up a coalition of 18 charities, and a No One Needs to Sleep Rough campaign, supported by the Mayor which is coordinating donations.
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