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Atlas 2022 Launch Blog Series: Street Outreach Services

The Atlas 2022 refresh went live on the 8th March. We began the Atlas blogs for the new season looking at accommodation services. In this second blog, Project Lead Becky Rice explores the very first response to rough sleeping – outreach services.  


Street outreach – connecting with those rough sleeping 

In the Atlas, street outreach services refer to the teams commissioned by local authorities and the Greater London Authority to go out onto the streets, day and night, and offer support to people who are facing rough sleeping or currently rough sleeping.  Outreach is a vital first connection with homelessness services for many people who are forced to sleep rough – the aim of outreach contacts is to help people find the quickest and best route off the streets for them.  


Finding people 

People are located in two ways 

  • Firstly, though outreach teams actively looking for people in ‘hotspots’ where people often sleep rough or in likely locations – for example outbuildings on estates, sheltered doorways and near transport hubs. Where possible – for example in smaller areas or where there are extensive outreach services – teams cover every street.  
  • Secondly, using information provided by third parties, including responding to Street Link referrals or reports from local residents, businesses and other concerned members of the public about people rough sleeping in a particular location.i  


What does the Atlas tell us about street outreach services?  

Outreach commissioning – local versus GLA commissioned 

The Atlas provides exclusive data about street outreach services across London. The main London map highlights the type of outreach coverage each borough has. It shows that most boroughs commission their own outreach teams. This is usually from the ongoing Homelessness Grant provided by central government, but may also draw on other funding for example, Rough Sleepers Initiative funding. The number of boroughs with their own dedicated outreach provision has grown steadily over the years.  


In turn, this means that the GLA funded outreach service, London Street Rescue (LSR), which serves the boroughs who don’t commission their own service, works in fewer boroughs. At one time LSR served nearly half of London boroughs. Now it focusses on just seven – all in the East and South East of London, in Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Greenwich, Bexley, Lewisham, and Bromley. The expansion in street outreach services demonstrates that it is one of the key approaches to actively responding to rough sleeping and there has been an increased emphasis on this in recent years with the Rough Sleepers Initiative.  


London Map: type of outreach by borough

Who provides outreach in which area? 

To find out who provides outreach in a specific area, the Infographic is the place to look. The pink segments of the infographic denote outreach services. By ordering the data by ‘provider’ and ‘all services’ its quick to see that St Mungo’s are the main provider with local teams covering; Brent, Westminster, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow, Islington, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea and Waltham Forest. This is followed by Thames Reach who, in addition to the multi borough Rapid Response Team (RRT) and LSR teams have local services covering; Croydon, Enfield, Hillingdon, City of London, Hackney and Haringey. CLG provide outreach for Camden, Lambeth and Newham. SPEAR cover an area of the south West consisting of Wandsworth, Sutton, Richmond-upon-Thames, and Kingston-upon-Thames. SHP are commissioned to provide street outreach in Redbridge. In some boroughs the outreach service is delivered in-house by council employees for example in Harrow and Merton.  


Pan London Rapid Response Team (RRT) 

The map shows that 22 boroughs are supported by the GLA commissioned Rapid Response Team (RRT) run by Thames Reach. This team consists of around 19 outreach workers, who work during the night to locate people – the focus is on usually those who are new to rough sleeping and have been referred to Street Link. As the name suggests, the team respond to referrals quickly, usually attending the site described in the Street Link referral within 24 hours.  The team are able to cover a huge area in such a responsive way, thanks to many volunteers working with the team on their shifts.  The areas where the RRT is not operating have their own systems for quickly responding to Street Link referrals and the local outreach team is responsible for this. In Tower Hamlets and Westminster, the outreach team does this in conjunction with St Mungo’s ‘First Response’ service.  


Infographic – ordered by provider, hovering over one of the pink outreach segments to show detail 


What happens during and after an outreach contact? 

Outreach workers seek to provide the quickest and safest route off the streets for each person they meet. For some people this will be into homelessness accommodation in supported housing or hostels, for others it might be into emergency short term accommodation and then private rented sector housing, and for others providing reconnection to an area where the person can better access support. Reconnection can include providing travel tickets and support with linking up with services in the destination area, either in the UK or abroad.  


The approach taken by outreach teams is different for people new to the streets who need a very quick response to access an assessment centre or point for advice and emergency accommodation, and the smaller number of people who face multiple barriers to leaving street homelessness behind, including for example, poor previous experiences of services or mental health problems that make it hard to live in homelessness accommodation.  The latter group may be provided with longer term, more flexible contact, and more choice to help build up trust in a team, and make the decision to move off the streets with the support of a range of services. To illustrate,  reconnection work might be very quick and simple for someone who is new to the streets and realises they can access accommodation in their ‘home area’  after talking to an outreach worker who then lets the destination local authority know about this and may help them access funding for travel. Whereas for someone experiencing long term homelessness, reconnection might include in-depth work over many months including for example, regular contact, providing a mobile phone, identifying drug or alcohol treatment services and staff attending the intended destination area for the reconnection, with the person, on one or more occasion.  


For people who are new to the streets the onward journey from outreach is often to a Turnaround Hub where needs are assessed and associated emergency hotel accommodation provided where appropriate. This accommodation includes a large hotel provision called Waterloo Assessment Hotel.  There are slightly longer term accommodation services for those who have to wait for onward accommodation having attended a Turnaround Hub – these are called Staging Posts. The Turnaround Hubs and staging posts are commissioned by the GLA to St Mungo’s. There is a women’s specific assessment service called The Green Room in Westminster for women rough sleeping in West London boroughs, also delivered by St Mungo’s.  


To see the Turnaround Hubs and Staging Post services represented on the Atlas use the Infographic ordered by borough; the right hand side of the main bar chart is a mini infographic showing pan London services only. Hovering over a block shows you which service it represents.  


Outreach and data 

As well as information about outreach teams, the Atlas includes information collected by outreach teams in the form of the CHAIN figures shown on the main London Map and the Borough Focus. Each outreach contact made is recorded on the CHAIN system which is commissioned by the GLA and delivered by Homeless Link. CHAIN figures are limited to those who are visibly rough sleeping and located, and impacted by the level of outreach coverage in an area, but provide the most accurate and detailed information on rough sleeping available. 


As always comments, corrections and ideas all welcome. And you can sign up for the Atlas Insights mailing list to get Atlas info sent directly to your inbox around four times a year here 

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