Riverside’s outreach team has supported 16 rough sleepers with complex needs off the streets of Wakefield and into accommodation during the COVID crisis.
Assisted by the Government’s drive to get those impacted by homelessness off the streets and into longer-term accommodation during the pandemic, over the last few months rough sleeper numbers have reduced significantly in Wakefield from 18 people per night to just two; across the UK, Riverside supports 3,000 people affected by homelessness every night.
Riverside’s outreach team, which covers the Wakefield District from Ossett to Knottingley and Castleford to South Emsall, has helped those affected by homelessness into supported accommodation or into hotels, assisting customers to register with GPs, complete applications for benefits, as well as making referrals to drug and alcohol units.
In Wakefield, the outreach team has supported vulnerable people into Marsh Way House, which has 48 individual flats and is Riverside’s Assessment Pathway service, helping to understand customer housing needs. The team has also worked with partners in the area including The Saviour Trust, Informal Learning and Wakefield Council to support customers into accommodation.
John Glenton, Executive Director for Care & Support – Riverside, said: “The COVID crisis has enabled us alongside partners to make significant progress in tackling the impact of homelessness in Wakefield and across the country, which we all must now build on.
“As the largest provider of supported housing for people affected by homelessness in the UK, we believe that vulnerable people should have access to support services that will enable them to make meaningful changes to their lives. We continue to work with a range of partners in Wakefield and across the country to maximise our impact in working towards our common goal of Ending Homelessness Together.”
Major successes for the outreach team include supporting long-term rough sleepers with no status in the country, such as a Polish national who came to the UK in 2001 and has worked for 13 years full-time. The Polish man had a wife and child, but the relationship broke down and when he turned to alcohol his life spiralled out of control. He had a serious head injury and has been sleeping rough in Wakefield for more than 18 months. Riverside contacted the Polish Embassy in Manchester and helped to secure settlement status, enabling him to access specialised accommodation for people with head injuries, which has had a huge positive impact on his health and well-being.
Matthew Heald, Riverside’s Preventing Rough Sleeping Model Coordinator in Wakefield, added: “The COVID crisis has for differing reasons improved the engagement of many rough sleepers with our service, making them more willing to work with us and accept the support being offered. Furthermore, with less people on the streets it has given us more time to spend with those who need extra support to maintain their tenancy once accommodated and to resolve complex cases. A great example of how this extra time has been used is with the Polish male who had no status in the country, severe memory loss, alcohol dependency and a head injury. Given his health and status he was at high risk of passing away. He was rough sleeping but is now in specialised accommodation which can meet his support needs.”
Prior to the pandemic, Riverside provided gym passes to those impacted by homelessness, with mountain bikes being supplied to customers to get them fitter.