Providing support to people experiencing homelessness in our rapid response service

In this blog, Sophie, No Second Night Out (NSNO) Manager shares how our rapid response service, NSNO is helping people to have their last night on the streets.

Our NSNO service has changed a lot in the last few years through the covid-19 pandemic. We moved from ‘shared space’ assessment hubs which allowed 25 people a safe place to sleep to a different model. Now, we operate with Assessment Hubs; three of these working with people from all over London who have been sleeping rough.

People who have been sleeping rough are brought into one of the three hubs by outreach teams. There they are greeted by Assessment and Reconnection Workers who conduct a thorough assessment of their circumstances and what led to their rough sleeping. They then use this to formulate a plan to help them in their recovery from homelessness and move them into safe and secure appropriate accommodation.

In addition to the hubs, we have four ‘Staging Posts’ and are still operating a large hotel in Waterloo. In total we have 233 beds; 25 of these are for people with complex immigration cases and who have no recourse to public funds.

People are referred from the hubs into these ‘staging posts’ so that they can have a private room whilst we continue to support them in their recovery. We aim to move people in these hubs into accommodation within six weeks. As well as providing warmth, safety and respite from the dangers of rough sleeping, it allows us to work quickly to resolve their homelessness and to understand the support they need to feel empowered and involved in their established move on plans. It’s amazing to be able to work with people and see the difference having privacy and space after days, weeks, months or sometimes even years on the streets can have – to see them settle in and see the positive effects this has.

From here, or directly from the hubs, we support people most often into:

  • Emergency accommodation via the Local Authority. This is for individuals who are particularly vulnerable and eligible for immediate support and assistance owing to their support needs
  • Supported accommodation and then longer term supported housing
  • Private Rented Sector accommodation
  • Clearing House properties

As the people we’re supporting come to us from sleeping rough on the streets, it is crucial to build a relationship of trust. We work hard to ensure the balance of supporting them by providing a rapid service whilst ensuring that we get to know them as individuals. Often people who’ve experienced homelessness come in feeling distrustful, and understandably so when they may have felt rejected or unsupported by statutory services or friends and family. A huge part of our role is proactively signposting, advocating and connecting them to the support they need whether this be through their council, mental health services or social care.

This winter, we are continuing this work and as always trying to support people into accommodation as quickly as we can. We are also preparing for Severe Weather Emergency Protocol in the coming months, an emergency response to prevent deaths of people sleeping rough during winter and in prolonged extreme cold. We are also preparing for more intermittent spells of cold weather due to the effects of climate change and are organising this crucial lifesaving provision in NSNO by providing a new building for this purpose.

St Mungo’s frontline workers can help more people sleeping rough and find them safe beds in from the cold. Your help could make sure more people have their last night on the streets – and their first night of a new life. Find out more here.