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
For more information contact
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.