Our outreach teams work out on the streets of Bath & North East Somerset, Basingstoke, Exeter and Dorset. They ensure that anyone who has been forced to sleep rough, or is leading a street based lifestyle, understands the options available to come in.
We spoke with one of the team, working in the Bath & North East Somerset region, to find out a bit more about the service.
What sort of support does your team provide?
Outreach sessions are an opportunity to engage with new rough sleepers, introduce who we are and inform them of the services available to them. It can be a challenge to have these conversations outside, particularly if they have had little sleep. However, we are fortunate to have our Outreach office in the centre of Bath where we can continue conversations in a more comfortable setting. While making them a cup of coffee, we have a chance to briefly discuss their current situation.
We also help clients navigate the benefit system, housing, and ensure they have access to healthcare. The way we work enables us to support our existing clients as well, building relationships, and creating a person-centred support plan. Our aim is to explore all options to enable clients are able to access suitable housing.
We are fortunate to work within a multi-agency team, comprised of a Health Nurse, Dual Diagnosis Navigator, Assertive Outreach Worker, Specialist Female Outreach Worker, and Prison Resettlement Outreach Worker who prevents clients leaving prison homeless.
- The Community Mental Health Nurse works for Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership. Working collaboratively with statutory and third sector organisations to support people experiencing homelessness with mental health issues.
- The Dual Diagnosis Navigator works with people who are experiencing rough sleeping, and those that are at risk of losing their accommodation with a mental health diagnosis and substance misuse issues.
- The Assertive Outreach Worker builds relationships with people who are rough sleeping, identifying and supporting clients into suitable accommodation.
- The Specialist Female Outreach Worker supports women who are experiencing rough sleeping and preventing vulnerable women who are facing homelessness from rough sleeping.
- The Prison Resettlement Outreach Worker supports people who are being released from prison with No Fixed Address who would be rough sleeping, by finding suitable accommodation before their release date, with the aim of preventing the cycle of homelessness, offending and retuning to prison.
How many people do you see a day?
The area we cover is Bath, Keynsham, Salford and some rural areas as well. And the number of people we see varies from high to low – sometimes we will see and speak to many clients, or sometimes we only see a few.
When we experience extreme weather, the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is agreed in colder weather, as well as during times of extreme heat. When SWEP is active, emergency accommodation is provided for people sleeping rough, and there should be no one sleeping on the streets. However, some clients refuse this offer. Therefore, we aim to visit these clients and make sure they have what they need to keep safe.
We have structured times in the week when we do outreach, visiting locations that are often used as bedding down spots, and we also respond to reports of people sleeping rough. Streetlink is a useful way for members of the public to connect a rough sleeper to our service or by contacting us directly.
Do you often see the same people?
Our clients’ circumstances can be complex, and some return to the street after being housed – whether that is from supported accommodation or their own tenancy. When a client is housed from an extended period of rough sleeping, it can be a challenging time for them whilst also being a huge relief. So support is available for clients when they move into supported accommodation, where they can develop life skills, and receive mental health support.
What’s the next step for clients after you have made contact with them?
The next step is to put them in touch with Bath & Northeast Somerset Council, who will go through the homelessness application process. If they have a local connection to the area, we can refer them to the Julian House Hostel. And if there are spaces at the hostel this can happen quickly, however sometimes there is a waiting list.
If a client does not have a local connection to the area, we can reconnect them and contact their local support services, who can provide further help. Sometimes a client will want to stay in the Bath area, and this can take longer to find them suitable accommodation.
It can be a challenge for someone who has been sleeping rough to navigate the housing system. However, we help them navigate the system and provide advocacy for the client, making sure they are involved and understand the process.
What’s the hardest part of working for outreach?
Some members of the public can sometimes believe that rough sleepers have brought their situation on themselves, without knowing the conditions that caused their homelessness. This can be difficult to hear. That said, much of the public are incredibly supportive and generous, and understand that rough sleepers are extremely vulnerable, and are at risk from being exploited by others.
You can find out more about our outreach services here.
And if you would like to support the work we do, please consider making a donation here.