St Mungo’s client and volunteer, Liam, responds to MP Adam Holloway following ITV Tonight’s Undercover: Roughsleeper programme.
Dear Mr Holloway,
Firstly, I wish to thank you for highlighting homelessness in the recent ITV programme. It was good to see such an important issue being brought to the public’s attention. I myself have been homeless and have experienced similar events such as you did during your time on the streets.
You said for two days you didn’t see any outreach workers. Can I suggest you go out with an outreach team to see the work they do and the pressures they face? I know that outreach teams have limited resources and some teams have huge boroughs to cover. It takes time to find people, then try to engage with them and get them safely to a No Second Night Out hub. Please bear in mind, outreach workers will try their best to locate rough sleepers but when there are hundreds of potential people to locate, it’s clear it’s hard, especially when many are asked to move on by police or security so people may not necessarily be sleeping in the same location.
I have experienced hostels. Some are fantastic but like anything in life there can be various issues that impact on these places; not everyone is going to get along unfortunately. Many people live in hostels, many with complex needs. I have had good and bad experiences, the same as if someone was living in shared accommodation. There are some fantastic key workers in hostels.
I am a client of St Mungo’s. I am also a volunteer for them, as well as for StreetLink. StreetLink directly supports rough sleepers away from the streets by connecting them to local services as quickly as possible. I volunteered for three days during SWEP this winter and one thing that was clear was the hard work and dedication from volunteers and staff who came from different teams to help, many of those worked flat out, not even taking a break. One thing for sure there is no lack of compassion or dedication from them, I can testify to that.
Thank you for showing that homeless people are not all the same, and are not the stereotypical person. People can become homeless very quickly, very easily. We are all human.
No Second Night Out hubs are there to refer people after being assessed to the appropriate service. They are places of safety, not built to be an accommodation service. Lights are on most times to protect those who come through the service and staff. They rely on generous donations of food and essential provisions from the public and local businesses.
It is clear from your programme that there is money available. However, it is unclear how and where it will go, and as an elected Member of Parliament and from your experience on the streets, I urge you to get government to:
- Use its new rough sleeping strategy as an opportunity to increase resources for outreach and homelessness services
- Ensure councils have support and enough funding with the Homelessness Reduction Act coming into force
- Make sure ‘affordable’ housing is exactly that – ‘affordable’ to everyone
- Ensure the NHS and other services have enough resources to help people with substance misuse problems
Liam (former rough sleeper), now a StreetLink and St Mungo’s volunteer