13 January 2020

London’s rough sleepers get a direct line to help, with a new Streetlink service allowing them to self-refer – rather than relying on passers-by.

The StreetLink app and website currently allows members of the public to alert local homelessness services to people sleeping on the streets, so outreach workers can check on their safety, offer support, and help them identify a route off the street.

Thanks to funding from the Mayor of London and Bloomberg Associates, StreetLink will this month launch the StreetLink London Advice Line, allowing rough sleepers to be connected directly with expert support, instead of waiting for passers-by to refer them.

Those sleeping rough will be able to call a free phone number, where a new, dedicated team of call handlers, who have been trained to help, provide immediate support and signposting into services – as well as putting them in touch with outreach workers.

The phone number will be available at day centres and medical centres, as well as being given to rough sleepers by outreach workers and Homeless Link.

Petra Salva, director of rough sleepers, ex-offenders and migrant services from St Mungos – which runs outreach services in north London and the GLA funded Lewisham No Second Night Out (NSNO) shelter – said: “Rough sleeping is harmful and dangerous, so it is vital that people get the help they need as quickly as possible and don’t spend second, third or more nights on the streets.

“This new pilot service will enable people who are sleeping rough or at risk to access the available support more quickly with the support of the London Advice Line team.

“Alongside referrals from concerned Londoners, this will help our and outreach teams and services be able to directly help more vulnerable people off the streets, out of danger into NSNO and other shelters, and on with their lives.”

It was on a visit to the Lewisham shelter – one of the first ports of call for people in South London referred via StreetLink – Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The number of people sleeping rough on our streets is a national disgrace, and since becoming Mayor I have made it a priority to do everything in my power to tackle this crisis.

“StreetLink services are an essential part of this and give Londoners a chance to play an active role in helping people sleeping rough to build a life off the streets. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support them in setting up this new advice service and the specialist StreetLink London website.

“This is just one of the many initiatives being undertaken by City Hall to help London’s homeless people.

“On Christmas Eve, I opened City Hall to 100 homeless Londoners, and we are doing more than ever before, but it’s clear more needs to be done.

“Ministers now must wake up to this issue with a proper plan of action rather than the empty promises of the last decade.”

Last year, following a campaign by Khan, Londoners made a record number of referrals to StreetLink, with more than 5,000 rough sleepers helped as a direct result of alerts from members of the public.

The Mayor’s funding has also allowed StreetLink to develop a new StreetLink London homepage – giving Londoners the latest information about homeless outreach services in the capital and what they can do to help.

The site will also show when the Mayor’s Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) is active.

SWEP is activated soon as temperatures are forecast to be zero degrees or lower on any night in any part of the capital and means council and charity services open extra beds to people sleeping rough.

Last year, 8,855 people were seen sleeping rough on the streets of London by outreach workers – more than double the number in 2010/11.

Since becoming Mayor, Khan has made tackling rough sleeping in London one of his top priorities.

Earlier this year, he announced he was doubling his rough-sleeping budget to £19.2m, including £2.2m to fund 300 extra bed spaces across London in the coldest months of the year through his Winter Programme.

Encouraging more Londoners to use the StreetLink app and website is a key message of the Mayor’s winter rough-sleeping campaign, alongside raising funds for the London Homeless Collective.

Londoners have already donated more than £50,000 in the first month of this year’s campaign via TAP London contactless donation points and the campaign’s GoFundMe page.

Matt Harrison, director of StreetLink, said: “We are pleased to be working with the Greater London Authority and St. Mungo’s to trial this new service for people sleeping rough in London.

“StreetLink already works well as a national tool for the public to send an alert about someone they see sleeping rough, and the StreetLink London Advice Line has the potential to put power in the hands of individuals to help them move towards ending their rough sleeping for good.”

Source: 24housing