Making homelessness everyone's business: Sharing stories from the front line
Adur & Worthing Councils are launching 'Rough Sleeping Action Week' (Monday 11th to Friday 15th March 2019). This week long campaign aims to highlight the work carried out by the Councils to help prevent homelessness and provide help and support to rough sleepers.
Throughout the week, our staff and partners will share their stories with the public through a series of blogs.
These will give you a chance to hear first-hand the day-to-day challenges faced by those delivering a range of services to help support people to get off the streets and into temporary or permanent accommodation.
From managing assessment beds for people discharged from hospital, to running cold-weather shelters, working with the local police force or supporting individuals back into work, every aspect of the work undertaken will be covered.
We also aim to help grow understanding of the ways in which the public can help rough sleepers by connecting them to key organisations and support services in Adur and Worthing.
Homelessness, wherever it occurs, is everyone's business and we can all help to prevent it and support those affected.
You can read our bloggers' homelessness posts on this page below:
As the last of our six blogs in this series to mark Rough Sleeping Action Week, we wanted to share a final reflection about the challenges we face in tackling the most complex of all homelessness issues - rough sleeping.
As two Heads of Service in Adur & Worthing Councils (Tina - Head of Wellbeing and Akin - Head of Housing), we both lead quite diverse teams undertaking a variety of different work, part of which is focused on issues that people in our communities experience. These issues - housing, homelessness, physical and mental health and wellbeing, work and skills, debt and finance, families and peers, access to green space and so on - are often referred to as the social determinants of health and wellbeing.
The variety of work we do in these areas at Adur & Worthing Councils does vary and our teams are skilled at finding resources - money and other - to bring into Adur and Worthing to enhance what we do. We are adept at working with other agencies and local communities to tackle these issues head on.
Our county is relatively prosperous, has general good health and wellbeing and high levels of people in work. This does, however, mask inequalities which affects some people living in our communities. Our teams see this every day: families who may be dealing with debt and financial management, people struggling to find work or gain the skills they need, young people who may be experiencing issues with their mental health and turning to self-harm.
One of the most challenging of all of these issues is homelessness. Like many places, Adur and Worthing has seen rising levels of people living in inadequate housing, or becoming homeless, against a backdrop of limited social housing. This encompasses a wide variety of groups, but our focus here is the most vulnerable - rough sleepers.
The physical and mental health problems associated with rough sleeping are significant. People experiencing homelessness can often have long-term health conditions, mental health issues, and substance misuse issues, which are compounded by living on the streets. These issues mean that they can struggle to access or sustain help and support, leading to a crisis point where they may end up in our hospital urgent wards.
The factors leading to homelessness can often be complex, and can also lead to a mistrust in professionals and rough sleepers becoming stigmatised. Shockingly, the average age of death for those living on the street is just 47 for men and 43 for women.
Latest estimates highlight that around 4,677 people are sleeping rough across the UK (Homeless Link), with a 17% increase in the South East. By contrast, this is half as big an increase seen in the North West. In Adur and Worthing, the levels are dropping, thereby bucking the national trend.
Why have we bucked this trend?
This has not been down to one thing - it's through many areas of action, some of which we have illuminated this week through the blogs of Sophie, Carl, Amanda, Matt and Sue, which aim to show the work taking place at the Councils and in partnership with others. Also, the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government has provide additional funding to allows recruit specialist roles and create more specialist accommodation to ensure those sleeping rough get the required support and accommodation.
Whilst some of this work is the Councils' core business now - undertaking outreach for example - we are also constantly searching and securing money to bring in extra provision to respond and deal with the issues that can help people on the street find purpose and skills, alongside any other support they may need. There is also a variety of other work going on led by some fantastic people, from faith groups, to the Night Shelter, and our colleagues working in health and the police. Working in partnership with several agencies is crucial to reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough.
Homelessness is not inevitable. Preventing people from losing their home in the first place is the most effective way of preventing homelessness and reducing the number of people sleeping rough. Identifying those at risk of losing their homes early and offering appropriate support is critical to successful homeless prevention. To achieve early identification more people need to look out for the 'triggers' of homelessness. That is why we say 'Homelessness prevention is everyone's business'.
Photo: Tina Favier, Head of Wellbeing, with Rhian Francis, Lead for Partnerships and Ben McGowan, Employment and Skills Coach
I'm Matt, the Rough Sleeper Coordinator for Adur and Worthing Councils, a role funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in order to have a positive impact on rough sleeping within the local area.
Throughout my career working in homelessness there has never been a greater opportunity to address this social issue. According to figures collated in 2018, 4,677 people are estimated to be sleeping rough on any one night. An increase in need and shifts within the housing market has seen the introduction of The Flexible Homeless Support Grant and the implementation of The Homelessness Reduction Act.
New duties and initiatives have allowed local authorities to work with people to either prevent or relieve homelessness with greater innovation and creativity. Adur & Worthing Councils continue to work with partnership agencies in statutory, third sector and voluntary Organisations. Professionals meet weekly as a Rough Sleepers Team, sharing a common goal to positively impact the community.
An example of this collaboration is the implementation of SWEP (Severe Emergency Weather Protocol), which was coordinated by Adur & Worthing Councils and Turning Tides. This ran for 18 days over January 2019 when temperatures dropped below zero degrees. During this period, 33 people accessed the service and we found shelter for 11 individuals who would have been on the streets without it.
Rough Sleeping is the acute form of homelessness, which not only impacts the individual but also the wider community. National statistics show that those who rough sleep have a life expectancy of 45 and are more likely to end their own lives or die from unnatural causes such as assaults or drug or alcohol poisoning.
By getting people off the street we save lives, their health improves and there is less demand on public services. For example, people who have been helped off the streets are less likely to require call outs from the Emergency Services, ultimately contributing to the saving of the public purse.
Frontline workers tirelessly reach out to support those who are marginalised within our society, ultimately aiming to relieve their homelessness. Often this includes engaging with the people on our streets who have experienced poor mental health, addiction, violence and abuse. Rough Sleeping is often the culmination of significant life events, both historical and current. Acknowledging homelessness as more than a housing need allows us to address its underlying causes.
By approaching homelessness in this way, we are better able to provide housing solutions that meet the needs of the individual. Adur & Worthing Councils look to do this by funding two Housing First units and Cold Weather Placements, interventions that are designed to reduce harm and equip people will the skills to increase their life chances.
The Government aims to half rough sleeping by 2022 and as a community we are only at the beginning of this journey. There are no quick fixes to end homelessness, but if we continue to innovate and strive for best practice we can be part of making a more inclusive society. Adur & Worthing Councils will continue to support the efforts of those who experience multiple deprivations to build positive community links and help them enter training and employment. It is only through this process that as a community we can support people to get off the streets and prevent them from returning.
How can I help someone who is sleeping rough?
I have been working in homelessness services in Adur and Worthing for two years now and I have been very impressed the way the community continues support our most vulnerable.
If you are concerned for a rough sleeper and wish to alert this to Adur & Worthing Councils I encourage you to report this via the Streetlink app. Streetlink was developed to allow the public to support the connection between the individual and frontline services. Myself and the Outreach team monitor the app daily and aim to respond as soon as possible.
Due to the ever changing nature of rough sleeping, our responses may include: linking in new rough sleepers to homeless services, welfare checks and attempting to minimise anti-social behaviour within the local community. All of this work takes time and there is no simple solution to homelessness. It is only through the collaboration between support services and the local community can we create a more inclusive society.
Photo: A rough sleeper's belongings in a shop doorway
Hello I'm Sue, and I'm the PR & Fundraising Manager for Turning Tides who's office is based at Worthing Town Hall.
A long term challenge for Worthing is to keep rough sleeping numbers low. Here at Turning Tides, we have worked closely with Adur & Worthing Councils on a number of initiatives to support rough sleepers and help prevent homelessness.
First of all, we wanted to make sure that we engaged with all local rough sleepers by ensuring that our services were accessible. We also aimed to provide personalised help which met individual needs through our hub and the Councils' outreach services.
November 2017 saw our highest official rough sleeper numbers to date, with our 'estimate' count reaching 34. This was the first time we were fully confident we had an accurate picture of rough sleeper numbers, as not only were rough sleepers fully able to access our services, but we had also increased our knowledge through the joint agency work of the Rough Sleeper Team.
Photo: Members of the Turning Tides team - (L-R) Gemma Orpwood Communications Manager, Sophie Moore Community Fundraiser, Charlie Chessman Community Fundraiser, Sue Stevens PR & Fundraising Manager, Lucy Knowles Senior Community Fundraiser
Our biggest challenge, having engaged with rough sleepers, was sourcing sufficient emergency accommodation. Despite good throughput and move on rates, our supported housing schemes were constantly full. Rough sleepers could wait many weeks if not months to gain access.
Early in 2017, Turning Tides hosted a 'Housing Matters' event alongside Worthing Homes and the Councils. A local housing developer, Roffey Homes, was at the event. Inspired by the event, Roffey saw an opportunity to provide emergency accommodation in a former nurses home they had acquired for development. The firm thought it unlikely it would be developed for five years, so granted Turning Tides a lease on a peppercorn rent. Planning permission was obtained and the Councils helped fund works, so that the former nurses home (now referred to as 'Lyndhurst Road') could be used as a 37 bed, high-support, short-stay accommodation project. The building opened in May 2018 and the numbers of rough sleepers fell quickly. In November 2018 the official estimate figure fell from 34 to 23.
Photo: Lyndhurst Road in Worthing
We have been able to make Lyndhurst Road accessible to those rough sleepers who have not met the requirements of our more structured supported housing schemes. We also offer wrap around support from our multidisciplinary team, using best practice through MEAM (Make Every Adult Matter), a coalition of national charities. As a result, Lyndhurst Road supports rough sleepers who previously had been considered 'unhouseable'. Recent rough sleeper initiative funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has played an important role in strengthening both Turning Tides' and the Councils’ rough sleeper teams.
Hello I'm Amanda, and I'm Housing Needs Manager at Adur & Worthing Councils. In my blog for Rough Sleeping Action Week I'm here give you an overview of the partnership work we're undertaking to help support those affected by rough sleeping, as well as what we are doing to try to prevent homelessness in the first place.
Homelessness and rough sleeping has increased across the country. With nearly half of all rough sleepers in the UK in London and the South East, it means here in Adur and Worthing we are at the frontline.
That's been recognised by the government who have awarded us £610,000 across two years through the Rough Sleeper Initiative to improve the support to individuals across our communities.
In many ways, putting in the bids and winning that funding was the easy part. The causes of homelessness and rough sleeping, though, are wide-ranging and complex. To tackle it requires a big team effort with expertise from many different sources.
Thanks to the support of Worthing Winter Night Shelter, Turning Tides, Storm Ministries and the Rough Sleepers Team, we have a range of various initiatives in place which we can offer to the most vulnerable people in our community, including rough sleepers and those at risk of rough sleeping.
Photo: Members from Adur & Worthing Councils, Turning Tides and Health Central Surgery gathering at St Clare's Community Hub, Worthing
Perhaps the most well known is the Worthing Winter Night Shelter, which is run by volunteers across the faith communities in Worthing. It has been a great support to the work we are doing in getting rough sleepers off the streets and into housing. This year, it has opened earlier year than in previous years, and offers 12 spaces a night for people who are rough sleeping. By providing a place to stay, a meal, a warm welcome and support, the shelter provides some stability that enables longer term housing to be worked on. So far this winter, 63% of those who used the Night Shelter have moved on into housing - a great result for everyone involved.
Our work goes beyond that though ...
Central to it all is the multi-agency Rough Sleepers Team, which is made up of council staff, social care, GPs, housing providers, community groups, charities, police and probation services. The team meets every week to discuss rough sleeper cases and those at risk of becoming homeless, so that we can plan our support and improve access to housing. Together we also work on Housing Plans to move people from the night shelter into housing.
To support the most vulnerable people, we have funded three complex need workers with Turning Tides. This has resulted in some of the most vulnerable people in our community getting the dedicated support they need. Most are now housed and, because they have built up personal relationships with individual staff, we've found there are fewer reports of antisocial behaviour and improved health and wellbeing too.
Another aspect is we've been able to fund is two units of temporary accommodation. These operate under the 'Housing First' model, with the aim to provide a stable, independent home so that intensive personalised support can be offered to homeless people with multiple and complex needs. Staff from the Rough Sleeping Initiative and the Rough Sleepers Team provide support. So far, we have successfully helped four people in these units.
Reducing rough sleeping is as much about helping to prevent someone losing their home as it is about getting people off the streets into housing, and we have a number of people working on prevention in a variety of roles.
My colleague Ben Mcgowan, who is our Employment and Skills Coach, has supported people back into work and training. Our Community Inclusion Worker at Turning Tides, Lisa Shoebridge, supports people who have previously slept rough who are at risk of homelessness to help sustain their accommodation longer-term. We also fund Advice and Assessment Work, as part of the team at St Clare's Community Hub which provides services and advice for rough sleepers and people who may have issues around housing homelessness.
I hope you can see that putting in place support to prevent homelessness and rough sleeping is not easy. But by working together we are making improvements every day which means we're ensuring some of the most vulnerable members of our communities are given help and support when they need it the most.
Photo: Volunteers at Storm Worthing Winter Night Shelter clearing up after dinner with the guests
Hello I'm Sophie Whitehouse, and I am the Councils' Lead for Early Help and Wellbeing.
Since moving here 13 years ago, I've really seen Worthing evolve into a vibrant town with a great range of bars, cafe and restaurants, as well as an assortment of arts and culture events. It's of no surprise that families are flocking from London, Brighton and further afield to enjoy all the town has to offer. I really do love living here.
On the flip side, much like the rest of the UK, the area is facing challenges. Some of these challenges are ones that we have faced for several years, such as rough sleeping, and some are new ones - like the emerging threat of organised crime gangs running county drugs lines to the town.
These are complex issues, involving people who are often vulnerable, so we need a lot of different approaches to tackle them and help keep our town safe. No single organisation has the answer, so it's vital that we work together.
Luckily for us, Adur & Worthing Councils' Communities and Wellbeing team is based in Worthing police station, alongside the police prevention team. This means we don't have to hang around for meetings to get our heads together and work out how to deal with a problem - these happen all day, every day. What's more, being in the town centre, it is quite usual for us to decide there and then to go and deal with something together.
We each take a role in tackling the anti-social behaviour in our town. If a vulnerable person is also causing anti-social behaviour, our outreach team will look at how that person can be helped to change their behaviour - for instance, is it around getting help with alcohol or drug use? Is it helping them get back to somewhere where they have more support? Is it working with our charity partner Turning Tides to help them find somewhere to live?
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we need to use the law to bring about that change in behaviour, and that is where we work more closely with the police. If there is a problem with a behaviour of a group, the Inspector might put in a Dispersal Order. This gives the police the power to ask people to leave an area for 48 hours. If it is a particular person, we might issue a warning, or if the behaviour causes a serious nuisance, we will look to use an injunction, which could ban them from an area or from causing certain behaviour. We look at each case on its own merit, weighing up whether the proposed course of action is fair, whether there is evidence, whether the court will agree with our approach, and so on.
Having worked together for a long time, there is a lot of trust and we respect each other's decisions. Sometimes it gets a bit bumpy but at the end of the day, we all want our community and the people living here to be, and feel, safe, and that includes those without a home.
Photo: PCSO Hannah Hall, Sophie Whitehouse and PCSO Ann-Marie Rushworth
Hello I'm Carl Sutherland, and I'm the lead for the Councils' Street Outreach team.
I work full time alongside my colleagues Georgina Beauman and Nicole Hazleton (who are part time). We work with the street community in Adur and Worthing to engage and support every person living on the street.
We all go out at different times, from 5am in the morning to 10pm at night, and monitor the streets, car parks, shelters and any other areas which may have been reported to us. We try to engage with rough sleepers to signpost and support them to access appropriate services on a range of issues, from help with housing, benefits, mental health, suicide awareness, substance misuse, overdose awareness, and advocacy to name just a few.
As many people will know, homelessness is a growing problem nationally as well as across Adur and Worthing and there are services out there to help people who are struggling on the streets. However, a key part of our work is to help rough sleepers become part of the community, as we recognise that homelessness may only be part of an individual's problem. To help achieve this, we work with a number community groups across a range of areas.
We have set up a meditation group every Monday at St Paul's Church, Worthing, which everyone is invited to, and we also engage with gyms to help people look after their health. We also link in with Sustainable Sussex based at Worthing Leisure Centre, which provides help for people who find access to the workplace difficult, as well as linking in with other community groups. We don't just refer individuals on and say “see ya” - we actually take them to these activities so that they feel supported throughout the process.
Being an outreach worker, we don't have all the answers, but we do have people skills. We are a really motivated and dynamic team, and really try to help someone feel like they are being listened to. This is so important - while we need to collect the required information about someone's current situation, we also always ask them 'what do you like doing?'. We find that this helps us to engage with someone and helps us to find what skills they have. We have met chefs, sound engineers, people in the armed forces, hair stylists, artists, actors and gardeners, to name just a few - understanding people's interests and skills helps us to start a conversation with someone who might be sleeping rough, and actually get to know them as a human being.
Photo: Carl Sutherland (right) and Georgina Beauman (centre) talking with a rough sleeper in Worthing town centre
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