Solutions event - 14 November 2016

Hello. It's been a while since our July survey week.

The good news is that, since then, the findings, learning and next steps from the WHAT project - including survey results and suggestions from people rough sleeping and volunteer participants- have been collated and we now have an Executive summary and a fuller Findings document.

What next?

We are holding our first Solutions network event on 14 November from 6.30 to 9 pm at The Abbey Community Centre, 34 Great Smith Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3BU. 

This is an opportunity for people to engage with WHAT partner organisations, other local providers and people sleeping rough to help shape the next steps of the campaign. 

This event is an opportunity for as many people as possible to feed into WHAT’s agenda. 

If you'd like to attend, please email: westminsterhomelessactiontogether@mungos.org

If you can't make it on 14 November, we'd still like to hear from you. Please send comments to the same email.

WHAT did we discover #? Petra Salva blogs about initial findings

I can hardly believe it was less than a month ago when volunteers came along to our first training sessions at the Abbey Community Centre.

Since then we have achieved a lot!

With everyone’s help, we have completed a unique event – the first UK volunteer community survey of its kind of people sleeping rough.

More than 300 volunteers signed up, speaking over 36 languages, and gave a minimum of ten hours each to the WHAT project.

Over three nights and one morning volunteers covered over eight square miles of Westminster in 32 teams. Our volunteers encountered 461 people sleeping rough on the streets.

Those volunteers and people who were surveyed were invited to come to our Thank You event on Tuesday 19 July where they heard some of the headline findings. These were that:

  • Of the 461 people met, 58% agreed to participate in the survey
  •  A total of 267 surveys were completed
  • 87% of people met were men and 11% were women
  • A further 15 separate women’s surveys undertaken during the day on Thursday and are being analysed separately
  • 47% of people met were 35 or under
  • 61% said they had no income of any shape or form
  • A quarter said they had chronic health issues and almost half (47%) said they avoid seeking help when not feeling well
  • More than a third (34%) had been beaten up or attacked since sleeping rough
  • Nearly a quarter hadn’t been in permanent stable housing for two years; 54% had been previously housed and ended up back on the streets
  • About half (49%) had come to London for work
  • 10% were working while sleeping rough
  • 39% of women and 22% of men said homelessness had been caused by a traumatic experience
  • Just under half of people surveyed were from the UK (44%), with the next highest group Rumanian
  • A third – 34% - said they were not in contact with any services – and of these 72% said they wanted to be.

The efforts and commitment of our volunteers were inspiring. However, the reality of the situation makes me more determined to keep this momentum going and harness the community spirit so we can really change things for those people sleeping rough.

We have to do more. It's not ok for this to be taking place under our noses and it's a scandal. One man told me "I have accepted that I will die on the streets.” This is not ok and I don't accept that more cannot be done.

So WHAT next? Our aims were to raise the profile and increase understanding of the challenges of the growing problem of rough sleeping. I hope your understanding and awareness has increased and we were pleased to see WHAT featured in the Observer as well as on BBC London TV news. Thank you too for your social media push - #WHATJuly16.

Another aim was to take a fresh look through different eyes – our volunteers’ eyes – and tap into different thinking. Thank you to those who gave us reflections at the Thank You event, which is being fed into a final report.

So WHAT’s the plan from here?

  1.  The data collected will be analysed in depth
  2. Ideas and comments will be fed into a final report by the end of August ready to be shared with wider partners

We have asked our volunteers not to stop now. This is just the beginning.

That could be through volunteering with one of the charities involved, or campaigning.

Check out the current volunteering opportunities here: St Mungo’s, The Passage, Connections at St Martin's in the Field, The Abbey Centre, West London Mission, Groundswell and with their respective campaigns.

Also, if you live, work, or study in Croydon, you can get involved in the next stage of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign. Click here for more info.

Why must we not stop?  Because each night about 15 new people sleep rough for the first time on our streets. You can help change that. Across London and Europe we can end street homelessness.

Tuesday night in pics...

Photos by John Lewis or Tony Rigg at Medway DSLR Camera Club

Between 10pm and 2am, data entry volunteers recorded the results of surveys with about 70 people sleeping rough who were interviewed by volunteers on Monday 11 July.

Between 10pm and 2am, data entry volunteers recorded the results of surveys with about 70 people sleeping rough who were interviewed by volunteers on Monday 11 July.


Tues 12 July, 10pm - Petra Salva, St Mungo’s, gives a briefing to WHAT volunteers before they head out.

Tues 12 July, 10pm - Petra Salva, St Mungo’s, gives a briefing to WHAT volunteers before they head out.


Tues 12 July, 10pm – Energy, enthusiasm and commitment from WHAT volunteers as they prepare to head out onto the streets of Westminster to talk to people sleeping rough

Tues 12 July, 10pm – Energy, enthusiasm and commitment from WHAT volunteers as they prepare to head out onto the streets of Westminster to talk to people sleeping rough

More than 250 volunteers talking to people rough sleeping in Westminster this week

  • More than 250 volunteers have signed up to find out more about who’s sleeping rough in Westminster - and are meeting those people this week (10-17 July)
  • Part of community action week: Westminster Homeless Action Together (#WHATJuly16)  – following similar campaigns in Barcelona, Stockholm and Valencia to end street homelessness across Europe

More than 250 compassionate volunteers have come together with homelessness charities to take part in a community event this week (10-17 July) to help people sleeping rough in Westminster.

Westminster has more people sleeping rough than any borough in the country. A total of 2,570 people slept rough there during 2014-15, with around 300 people contacted by outreach teams during March this year.

Now a group of charities, supported by Westminster City Council, have organised Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) – a community action week – as part of a European campaign to end street homelessness.

This week local residents, students, colleagues from businesses and groups are going out on the streets and talking to people who are sleeping rough to find out more about their stories and bring a fresh perspective to strategies to tackle homelessness.

WHAT is being coordinated by St Mungo’s, The Connection at St Martin’s and The Passage, in partnership with Westminster City Council, Groundswell, the West London Mission and the Abbey Community Centre.

Petra Salva, Director of Outreach and Street Homelessness at St Mungo’s, said: “We know people are compassionate, concerned and want to help when they see someone sleeping rough.

“With numbers rising, there’s no more urgent time than now to galvanise that energy and involve the Westminster community to help those people, sometimes literally, on their doorstep."

Roger Clark, Deputy Chief Executive of The Passage, said: "When The Passage hosted the launch of London being named European Capital for Volunteering we celebrated the fact we have so many volunteers helping with our work. We are pleased people are joining us and giving their time and energy so together we can make a real difference to the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community and help them off the streets and home for good.”

Colin Glover, Chief Executive of The Connection at St Martin’s, said: “We’ve provided training, then the volunteers are helping gather stories, together with suggestions as to how we could all work together to deliver solutions.” 

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Westminster City Council, said: “Our outreach teams are out 365 days a year supporting rough sleepers away from the street and into accommodation. As a result nearly 70% of newly identified rough sleepers do not spend a second night out on the streets,

“However as the needs and profiles of people sleeping rough change we know we have to keep rethinking our strategies, to make sure we’re doing all we can. This community action week will give us 200 fresh pairs of eyes to help us develop new solutions.    

“I would urge everyone to get involved in this fantastic initiative and help us end street homelessness in London and across Europe once and for all.”      

The charities asked people to:

  • Commit to four hours training on Wednesday 6 July (6-10pm) or Thursday 7 July (6-10pm) or Sunday 10 July (11.30am-3.30pm).
  • Sign up for at least one shift (approx. 9pm and 2am) on Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 13 July or Thursday 14 (approx 6am and 10am).
  • Come to a community Thank you and Debrief event on 19 July - with those people surveyed invited to attend alongside the volunteers.
  • Spread the word on Tw @WHAT_July16 #WHATJuly16 #Endhomelessness

ENDS

For more information contact

Notes

Westminster Homeless Action Together is one in a series of community pilots taking place across Europe this year. The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), which helps transfer outstanding housing practices across the globe, are coordinating a European End Street Homelessness Campaign.

BSHF is working with FEANTSA, the European body which represents homeless organisations, as well as Community Solutions who ran the US 100,000 Homes Campaign

They are supporting organisations in six European cities including London to test how processes can be adapted to different contexts. Pilots have already happened successfully in Valencia in April and Barcelona in May.

The WHAT project was funded through a successful application from St Mungo's to Westminster City Council's innovation fund with additional costs funded from charity fundraising from all organisations involved. The Westminster innovation fund is to support and encourage innovative working from charities, business, groups or individuals.

Jon's blog

Jon Kuhrt is Executive Director of West London Mission.

The politics of rough sleeping

The image of a rough sleeper is powerful and moving. It creates strong feelings of distress, anger, sympathy and bewilderment among most people. I think it is because homelessness captures something raw and fundamental about poverty. It brings together both personal tragedy and political failure.

Behind each rough sleeper there is always a personal story which will involve trauma, rejection, pain and many difficulties. Everyone’s story is different – a complex fusion of how events and circumstances have collided with personal frailty or poor fortune which have resulted in them being on the streets.

But it’s wrong to see homelessness purely as the outcome of personal problems. A large chunk of the issue relates to politic. This is because it is an issue so affected by the government’s social and economic agenda.

Back in the late 1980s a Tory minister, Sir George Young, reputedly said ‘The homeless?  Aren’t they the people you step over when you came out of the opera?’ It became a famous quote became of the gulf it exposed between those in power and the realities on the street.

But the scale of rough sleeping in that period meant it could not be ignored. The first Rough Sleeper Initiative was started in 1990 by Margaret Thatcher in response to the embarrassing numbers of younger people sleeping rough around Westminster and Whitehall.

But the problem did not go away.  Seven years later, Tony Blair established his Social Exclusion Unit with one key target being to cut rough sleeping in London by two-thirds.  When he became Mayor, Boris Johnson pledged to eliminate rough sleeping completely by 2012.

Officially, Blair was successful in reaching this target; Johnson did not come close. And, despite new initiatives, the numbers sleeping rough since has increased considerably. According to official figures rough sleeping has risen over 50% in the last five years.

Many of the causes of homelessness are rooted in political decisions: benefit changes, lack of affordable housing, austerity and deepening economic inequality.

WHAT is a great opportunity for us all to learn more about homelessness and what can be done about it. Through the interviews we do with homeless people, we’ll learn more about the personal stories of hardship and difficulties.

But we must never forget the wider context which leads to more and more people ending up on the streets. Let’s hope WHAT is a catalyst to increase political pressure on the government and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to invest properly to reduce rough sleeping.

Homelessness is a personal tragedy – but it’s also a political scandal. And, as Desmond Tutu said, “We should not just be pulling people out of the river – we need to go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.”

Miranda's Blog

Miranda Keast is Business Development Manager at the Passage.

It is absolutely essential for an organisation working effectively with homeless people to help them transform their lives to build good relationships, based on honesty, trust and partnership. Every day, The Passage strives to do just that.

More than the relationships with the individual people that we help, however, we also strive to build good relationships with the communities that we work within.

Rough sleeping is bad not just for the people whose safety nets have let them down and who end up on the streets, but as such a visible and distressing sign of social isolation and exclusion, it is also bad for communities. 

We put time and care into building relationships with businesses, residents, students and local authorities in the recognition that we have a joint vision for a safe, cohesive community that supports its vulnerable people.

Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) is an exciting project for a variety of reasons; it is providing homelessness organisations with the chance to think a bit differently, and gather useful information and use it to create new solutions.

One of the most exciting elements, though, is the unique opportunity for a community to come together, to connect with people, and to build a partnership to face up to a challenge in society that is so often ignored.  

We firmly believe that no one should have to sleep rough in 21st century London.  If you believe this too, and especially if you live, work or study in Westminster, we would love for you to join us.  

Colin's blog

Colin Glover is CEO of The Connection at St Martin's.

"Managing a charity working with homeless people in Central London is challenging at the best of times.

"There is, however, an additional  danger that those of us in the homelessness sector take a particular view of the world and have it reinforced by colleagues and partner organisations. We do things in the future because that is what we did in the past.

"Every so often it is therefore good to step outside of this comfort zone and see how things look from the outside or from a different angle.

"We currently have a fairly restricted interpretation of what rough sleeping means and how rough sleepers should behave.

"Our services are based round this view and our resources allocated accordingly. This view also has the advantage of enabling us to count numbers, to see trends and to gate keep access to services.

"Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) gives us an opportunity to gather information about rough sleeping and rough sleepers in a new and exciting way.

"We may discover that more people are sleeping rough than our current outreach teams and day centres  are in contact with.

"We may discover individuals or groups of people who, whilst not being actually bedded down, are rough sleepers in every other sense of the word.

"It is also possible that we will discover that our outreach teams and other services are currently in contact with the vast majority of individuals.

"The figures may be scary and they may be depressing but any organisation which has resources and has a mission to reduce rough sleeping is in a far better position to do this if it has a true understanding of the issues and scale of the problem and not one which is generated by habit and convenience."

Together we can help end homelessness

Heather Petch (TW @HeathermPetch) is project managing the Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) project. Here’s why:

"After this week of shocking, tragic news, both at home and abroad, it is so heartening and inspiring to see communities coming together to support each other in shared grief.

"Communities are powerful things. That shared sense to unite, to better understand, to lean on each other, can make a huge difference and effect real change.

"That’s the idea behind Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) – that a group of more than 200 volunteers will come together during a week in July to go out on to the streets of Westminster and talk to people sleeping rough. And that through those conversations and a deeper understanding of what has led people to sleep on the streets, we as a wider London community will be better placed to suggest ways forward, really help improve the situation of those people and prevent others from ending up street homeless in the future.

"We’re not doing this in isolation. WHAT is itself a partnership of charities working together, with the support of Westminster City Council, and with volunteers coming from an amazing mix of businesses, universities, faith groups and concerned individuals.

"WHAT is also not a one off London project. It’s part of the European End Street Homelessness campaign and the responses our volunteers receive in their conversations with people sleeping rough will be included in learning from surveys that have already taken place in two of the other six pilot cites – Valencia and Barcelona. 

"I was struck by a tribute paid to Jo Cox MP by one of her fellow MPs that: “... She had an energy that left most of us feeling we had to lie down exhausted”. Other colleagues praised her lack of cynicism, her dogged determination to make common cause across party lines to find a way to solve seemingly intractable problems – such as Syria.

"That sense of passion and commitment pushing real change is why I’m involved in WHAT.

"Rough sleeping in Westminster may seem a long way from Syria but it is a complex and growing problem. More and more friends, family or people I meet ask me about this. They comment on seeing more people sleeping on the streets in which they live or work.

"They are right. The 2016 Crisis Homelessness Monitor reported a rough sleeping increase in London of 37% between 2010 and 2014; the rise in Westminster accounted for the greatest proportion of this.

"Charities working with the City Council and a network of London-wide agencies continue to succeed in making sure that 60 to 70% of people sleeping rough in Westminster do not spend more than one night on the streets. But numbers are rising.

"In Westminster, where many people feel safe because it’s busy 24/7, we know that a large proportion of people sleeping rough have mental or physical health problems and often a fear and distrust of services. Some people are migrants, some are working but perhaps on low pay and others are not entitled to any public benefits.

"Through the WHAT community action week in July, and the responses our volunteers find out from our survey, we want to deepen our understanding of what people need to get off the streets for good.

"Of course we know that housing is a part of this; it will be difficult for many of the most vulnerable people on the streets to get on top of problems that have overwhelmed them until they get housing. This is why Housing First is one of the key principles of the European End Street Homelessness campaign. We want to know how we can make this work in London. 

"But my other aim for WHAT is that it inspires our volunteers - and a broader mix of the Westminster and London community - to listen, learn and help move things forward. Together we can do more to help end homelessness."

Please - sign up to take part http://www.westminsterhomelessactiontogether.org/volunteer

Petra's Blog

Petra Salva is Director of Street Homelessness and Outreach services at St Mungo’s. Here she explains why St Mungo’s is partnering with other charities and organisations in July’s innovative Westminster Homeless Action Together to help end street homelessness.

 

“My starting point is this. I believe rough sleeping is harmful. It’s bad for the people rough sleeping, for their health, for their mental well being , dignity and respect. People sleeping rough are in a situation which can spiral out of control and it leads to premature death. The average age of death of someone in the UK who’s been homeless is 47. I have seen first hand the damage it does to individuals, their families , friends and to communities and it's just not ok to walk on by and do nothing about it.

“Local communities are impacted because people sleeping rough have to survive on the pavement in the locality in makeshift conditions which might end up causing problems for others living or working in the area.

“Rough sleeping is a very visible and acute sign of poverty and local communities where this is happening a lot can be left feeling that people are being forgotten, or marginalised, and communities then struggle with what to do and how to help, individually and collectively.

“A person sleeping rough in your local street should make you question what can you or should you do about it. I often get asked: should I buy food for the person? Give them money, give a sleeping bag, take them into a spare room, pay for a backpackers’ hostel for the night,  tell anyone or ring an ambulance if they’re looking really unwell?  Ring the council, or try to put them in contact with a local homelessness service?

“Sometimes my answers to these questions leave people feeling grateful, sometimes frustrated and more often people are still left feeling that there must be more they can do to help. That's why I am urging people to get involved in Westminster Homeless Action Together.

“The reality is that numbers on the streets are rising despite the enormous efforts of homelessness charities that are helping, and have been for years. St Mungo’s, The Connection at St Martin’s, The Passage, West London Mission, the Abbey Community Centre are just some of those in Westminster providing support for people sleeping rough. We’ve achieved a great deal and helped a lot of people but we need to do more and it's time to take a fresh look at how best to help.

“The landscape of rough sleeping is changing. While homelessness services and council housing services are facing cuts, people are ending up on the streets who may have been able to find a home and a place in previous years.

“Relationship breakdowns, poor mental health, poor physical health and other ‘traditional’ reasons why people told us they ended up calling the pavement a home are also now mixing alongside the stories of those destitute as refugees, people who’ve been trafficked, people who came as migrants to England’s big cities and who are working but can’t find housing, or afford rents.

“That’s why urgent and different action is now needed. By the whole community and not just from the usual suspects. And that’s why I’m really committed and energised to be involved in Westminster Homeless Action Together this July when we want the whole community to be involved in working together, finding out more about those rough sleeping on their doorsteps and helping to suggest ways we can help them move off the streets.

“We want the community to bring a different perspective and work with us. We must be ambitious. We want your help to pilot an approach which will come up with a new road map for achieving the ambition of ending rough sleeping.

“Putting an end to rough sleeping is an ambition worth having. I don't know how we can have anything else?  I've had enough of being told it's not possible, leaving one person out in the cold is too many. I've had enough of seeing people dying on our streets alone and scared and feeling forgotten. I've had enough of hearing excuses about why someone can't be helped and I've had enough of being told that Westminster has, and will always have, the highest number of rough sleepers in the country. I think it's time for all of us living and working in Westminster to find a solution and be proud of being part of a plan that helped put an end to this suffering and indignity.

“I want some of you already aware of the issues to be involved. But I also want those of you who’ve perhaps thought people sleeping rough are ‘someone else’s problem’ to get involved. On any one night in Westminster around 300 people are sleeping rough which means we have to redouble our efforts now. Tomorrow is too late!

“We need more conversations between those people who are sleeping rough about what they want to happen, and Westminster volunteers who want to make it happen.

“We need to galvanise your energy, compassion, empathy and goodwill of which I know there are tons,  so we can actually make a significant difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people – and we need to do it together.”

Want to take part?

Find out more at www.westminsterhomelessactiontogether.org  

TW: https://twitter.com/WHAT_July16

Press Release

More than 200 volunteers needed in Westminster to help end street homelessness

  • Wanted – more than 200 volunteers to find out more about who’s sleeping rough in Westminster and why
  • Part of community action week: Westminster Homeless Action Together (10-17 July 2016) – following similar campaigns in Barcelona, Stockholm and Valencia to end street homelessness across Europe

Charities are looking for over 200 compassionate volunteers to take part in a week long community event in July to help people sleeping rough in Westminster.

Westminster has more people sleeping rough than any borough in the country. A total of 2,570 people slept rough there during 2014-15, with around 300 people contacted by outreach teams during March this year.

Now a group of charities, supported by Westminster City Council, are organising Westminster Homeless Action Together – a community action week – as part of a European campaign to end street homelessness.

They want local residents, businesses and groups to go out on the streets and talk to people who are sleeping rough to find out more about their stories and bring a fresh perspective to strategies to tackle homelessness.

Westminster Homeless Action Together is being organised between 10 and 17 July by St Mungo’s, The Connection at St Martin’s and The Passage, in partnership with Westminster City Council, Groundswell, the West London Mission and the Abbey Community Centre.

Petra Salva, Director of Outreach and Street Homelessness at St Mungo’s said: “We know people are compassionate, concerned and want to help when they see someone sleeping rough.

“With numbers rising, there’s no more urgent time than now to galvanise that energy and involve the Westminster community to help those people, sometimes literally, on their doorstep."

Roger Clark, Deputy Chief Executive of The Passage said: "When The Passage hosted the launch of London being named European Capital for Volunteering we celebrated the fact we have so many volunteers helping with our work. Please join us by giving your time and energy so together we can make a real difference to the lives of the most vulnerable members of our community and help them off the streets and home for good.”

Colin Glover, Chief Executive of The Connection at St Martin’s said: “We’ll be providing training, then asking the volunteers to help gather stories, together with suggestions as to how we could all work together to deliver solutions.” 

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Cabinet Member for Public Protection, Westminster City Council, said: “Our outreach teams are out 365 days a year supporting rough sleepers away from the street and into accommodation. As a result nearly 70% of newly identified rough sleepers do not spend a second night out on the streets,

“However as the needs and profiles of people sleeping rough change we know we have to keep rethinking our strategies, to make sure we’re doing all we can. This community action week will give us 200 fresh pairs of eyes to help us develop new solutions.    

“I would urge everyone to get involved in this fantastic initiative and help us end street homelessness in London and across Europe once and for all.”      

The charities are asking people to:

  • Commit to four hours training on Wednesday 6 July (6-10pm) or Thursday 7 July (6-10pm) or Sunday 10 July (11.30am-3.30pm).
  • Sign up for at least one shift (approx. 9pm and 2am) on Monday 11, Tuesday 12, Wednesday 13 July or Thursday 14 (approx 6am and 10am).
  • Come to a community Thank you and Debrief event 

To sign up, register your interest, or find out more

ENDS

For more information contact

Notes

Westminster Homeless Action Together is one in a series of community pilots taking place across Europe this year. The Building and Social Housing Foundation (BSHF), which helps transfer outstanding housing practices across the globe, are coordinating a European End Street Homelessness Campaign. BSHF is working with FEANTSA, the European body which represents homeless organisations, as well as Community Solutions who ran the US 100,000 Homes Campaign.  They are supporting organisations in six European cities including London to test how processes can be adapted to different contexts. Pilots have already happened successfully in Valencia in April and Barcelona in May.