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Friday, 6 January 2017

[EMERGENCY HOMELESSNESS] How to help

 Plunging temperatures are dangerous for those with nowhere to go Getty

A “quick” note on homeless people at risk; what you can do to prevent life-threatening incidents on London streets. Big up to the mayor’s team for responding quickly. Please see also below my exchange with Street Link’s Communication Office on how they work and what advice they give.

Due to severe weather conditions on the go, The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has partnered with St Mungo’s to open an emergency severe weather shelter this weekend as temperatures plummet across the capital.

People concerned about someone rough sleeping should contact the national referral service StreetLink or use the mobile phone app or eventually 0300 500 0914 to help connect them with their local service.

The shelter opened in south London (Lewisham) on the evening of 4 January to help vulnerable rough sleepers off the streets and will stay open during the freezing weather to help anyone sleeping rough across London in what can be life-threatening temperatures.
As well as a warm bed to stay in, people will be offered a hot shower, clean clothes, and hot food, whilst staff work to link them into services to find them more permanent solutions to stop them returning to the streets.
This pan-London severe weather provision forms part of the Mayor’s wider work to tackle rough sleeping in the capital where he annually invests £9 million to run services, which include outreach, accommodation, and help to support homeless people into a permanent home, and jobs and skills training.  The Mayor has also recently secured an extra £4.2 million from Government to help rough sleepers and has allocated £50 million form his affordable housing fund to help people in hostels into long term accommodation.

The Severe Weather Emergency shelter, run by St Mungo’s, will be in place throughout the winter whenever three consecutive nights of freezing temperatures are predicted. Severe Weather Emergency Protocol aka SWEP’s guidance http://www.homeless.org.uk/our-work/resources/guidance-on-severe-weather-emergency-protocol-swep-and-extended-weather-provision

Exchange with Street Link Communication Office:
After reading many negative comments on FB from homelessness activists about SWEP, including the unanswered phone calls, I got in touch with both Street Link and a homelessness activist in order to see what can be improved / what can be done. Hopefully, I’ll publish the homelessness activist when he has time to reply. But for now, here are some precious advices from Street Link:

“StreetLink is a website (www.streetlink.org.uk), mobile app (‘StreetLink’ from Apple iTunes or Google Play store) and phone line which enables members of the public to send an alert when they are concerned about a rough sleeper. StreetLink passes the information on to the correct local authority or outreach team (not managed by us) who action the alert by going out to make contact with the person and connecting them to the local accommodation or support services available to them.

What should the public do when they see a rough sleeper?
Download the StreetLink app and save the website address to your phone, so that you can use them to alert us when you see a rough sleeper at night.
Give a detailed description of the individual, and as much detail as possible about their exact location to help the outreach teams to find them.
Tell us the time that you saw the person. Bear in mind that outreach teams go out at night or the early hours of the morning so if you can give details of a night-time sleep site, the teams have a better chance of finding them.

StreetLink is not an emergency service, but outreach teams do go out on their next shift – which is at night – to offer support. In some cases, the rough sleeper may not be helped off the streets immediately, due to having more complex support needs, which require the outreach team to work with them over a longer period of time.

In periods of extremely cold weather like we are experiencing currently, we receive a very high volume of alerts and ask people to use the site and app where possible as this allows us to process referrals more efficiently, and therefore help more people sooner. Occasionally we have to put the answer machine on to allow us to make follow up calls in response to referrals, but when this happens we will follow up on all messages that are left. We are currently redeveloping the website and the app to make it more user friendly and ensure it can cope with the increasing demand.

Matt Harrison, Director of StreetLink, comments:
Often, people want to help when they see someone sleeping rough, but they don’t always know how. Through our website and app, StreetLink provides the first simple step that people can take to ensure that rough sleepers are connected to the local services and support available to them. With the public’s help, in the last 12 months we have put almost 11,000 people in touch with the support they needed to escape rough sleeping and we hope to have an even greater impact in 2017.

EXTRA INFO on StreetLink

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The details provided by a member of the public are sent immediately to the right local authority (out of 326 in England and 22 in Wales), so they can help connect the person to local services and support. The person reporting the problem will receive details of the action the local authority or outreach team will take when they are told someone is sleeping rough. StreetLink receives a report from the council on what has happened as a result of the alert within ten working days and, if requested, provides the person who made the report with an update. This feedback loop is crucial to the success of the project.
WHY WAS IT SET UP?
Anyone can become homeless, and sleeping rough can damage your health and be dangerous. Evidence suggests that many individuals sleeping rough may not be known to local services while not all rough sleepers are aware that advice and services are available to them. About 50% of rough sleepers arrive on the streets without seeking advice from anyone. We know that members of the public often want to help when they see someone sleeping on the streets, but don’t always know how. StreetLink aims to help address this by providing the first step the public can take to ensure rough sleepers are connected to the local services and support available to them.
HAS IT WORKED?
We launched StreetLink in December 2012. Since that date we have received and passed on over 56,000 rough sleeper referrals from the public. Between December 2015 and December 2016 we successfully put over 10,500 people in touch with the support they need to escape rough sleeping.  
WHO IS INVOLVED?
StreetLink is managed and delivered by Homeless Link, the national membership charity for homelessness services in England, in partnership with St Mungo’s, a major provider of homelessness services. StreetLink is principally funded by the UK Government as part of their commitment to end rough sleeping in England, with additional funding from the Greater London Authority and the Welsh Government

More info on homelessness via The Mayor Of London: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/housing-and-land/homelessness

Also:
Last summer, I visited a friend in Deptford (we used to work @ Riverside Studios in the 90’s). We had lunch @ Deptford Reach. It was £1 for a meal and people can have hot showers. They help on many levels, so if you know people in difficulties, please tell them there is help http://www.deptfordreach.org.uk/contact/index.html It can be a bit intimidating if you are a woman on your own, but the place seems pretty safe.

Keep warm, help others to keep warm.


Sybille Castelain sybillecastelain@yahoo.co.uk  

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