For David*, who had been on the streets for almost forty years, the idea that anyone could offer him a pathway out of homelessness seemed impossible until Gary, a former rough sleeper himself, and part of a specialist housing team, spotted him sleeping rough.
Gary is a Support Worker with our specialist division, Riverside Care and Support, which has developed a new Programme of Support toolkit which is helping homeless people build the confidence and skills to transform their lives. It includes the unique input from those who have faced homelessness themselves.
Gary said: “In my job as part of the Street Buddies team I am able to use my own experience when I make contact with rough sleepers. David had refused help from many outreach agencies, but once I won his trust I could work with colleagues to get him into one of our specialist care and support centres where we could help him look at support he needed”.
Making dramatic inroads with long-term rough sleepers was put into context however at a special briefing event to MPs, housing heads and local agencies on Wednesday 4 November. At the briefing our senior team and frontline support workers highlighted innovative new services but also the pressures care and support providers are facing which means that increasing numbers are pulling out of the sector.
Our Executive Director of Care and Support, Leann Hearne, said: “I am delighted that our specialist staff are now implementing our Programme of Support. Each year we work with over 9,000 vulnerable people many of whom have mental health or addiction issues, or have experienced abuse, been in prison, are care leavers, or are even homeless veterans.
“However, I am also very aware that we are investing in housing and services at a time when others are pulling out of care and support due to funding pressures and the challenges of trying to support people with really complex issues.
“We have a real commitment to providing care and support services for vulnerable people, alongside the 50,000 family homes we also offer. For this reason we are developing services like Street Buddies and innovating our work via projects like our Programme of Support.
“With legislation currently going through Parliament that could dramatically affect care and support services, we are taking this opportunity to demonstrate the impact these services and our Programme of Support have on helping people transform their lives, develop skills and become productive contributors to their communities.”
Our Head of Supported Housing, Helen Gore, said: “The programme of support has been adopted by our national network of over one hundred supported housing centres. It provides a comprehensive toolkit for our specialist care and support staff in areas ranging from promoting people’s health and wellbeing, skills training and employment targets, helping them budget and plan personal goals, improving their mental health and even dealing with abusive behaviour towards them, all of which are essential building blocks to help homeless people transform their lives.”
Cllr Nickie Aiken, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Westminster City Council, said: “We are committed to ensuring that every person on the street is able to access the accommodation, advice and support they need. Riverside plays a key role in achieving this, through unique outreach programmes such as ‘Street Buddies’ which helps some of the most entrenched rough sleepers to move away from the streets.”
*Name has been changed.