James is a St Mungo’s outreach worker in our Bristol team. He’s out morning, day and night to find people sleeping rough and connect them with the services they need.

“It’s hard to describe a typical outreach shift – every day is different! At the beginning, I come into work and plan my time, deciding where I’m going to go and which clients I need to see. I’ll also check for referrals from StreetLink, which are really useful when it comes to finding new people. Then I head out into Bristol – usually on foot.

“When I meet someone new, the number one thing is to try and have a chat and build a rapport with them. You can’t dive in and do an assessment if they don’t feel comfortable, because they’re not going to want to share stuff with you.

“Once I’ve introduced myself, I’ll try and get as much information as I can about their situation. Sometimes I do the assessment on the street, or I’ll invite them to a café or somewhere more private.

"But it’s not just about getting people into accommodation. A lot of what we do is planting the seeds – encouraging people to start thinking about ways forward."

“In many cases, the information I get can be used to make a referral to the Homeless Prevention Team at the council. I can also add them to the Housing Register so that Housing Advisors have the information they need to contact and support them.

“Whilst all this is going on, there’s lots of other ways that I might be able to help a client. I can give them a mobile phone so that they can be easily contacted, or signpost them to places to get food, drink and a wash. I might help them to make a benefit claim, or walk them to the homeless health clinic. Sometimes, we even have doctors and nurses joining us on shift to offer treatment and advice.

“If all goes to plan, they’ll get an offer of accommodation, and I’ll help them to get there and move in. I can also refer them to any other services and support they might need.

“There are a lot of barriers that stop people from accepting our help – such as poor mental health, or addiction. For instance, I recently worked with Alex*, a young man in his twenties, who was experiencing paranoia and thought he was being stalked.

“When I first met him and offered help, he said he was fine. But over the course of a year, I managed to build a relationship with him, and gain his trust.

“Eventually, he agreed to let me drive him home. What started with a “Hello, I don’t want any help”, turned into us sitting round the table with his family, having a cup of tea, and giving them all a hug. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and a huge relief for them.

“I love my job – it’s a real privilege. Everyone is so driven, knowledgeable and supportive, and we have a wealth of experience to draw on within our team. Together, I feel like there’s no situation we couldn’t handle.”

*This name has been changed to protect the client’s privacy

Outreach at Christmas

“Christmas is a very, very lonely time if you are living on the street. You’re sitting there with all of your memories of Christmas’ past, and you are totally on your own.

“We try to be there for people, and make them feel included. We might help people to get bus or train tickets, so that they can reconnect with family, or hand out gifts that have been donated. Some of us head over to The Trinity Centre, where some clients spend Christmas, and say hello.”

"It's that human thing of being there for someone."

Outreach at Christmas

We often have opportunities for people to volunteer with our outreach team. You can support us either as a:

  • First Response volunteer, helping busy outreach teams to locate people quickly, so that they have a more productive shift
  • Outreach volunteer, working with experienced outreach staff to locate and speak to people sleeping rough, and help them access the services they need

For more information and to view our latest roles, click here.