For our latest Atlas blog, Atlas project manager Becky Rice, and Kirsty Lowe, Rough Sleeping Services Manager from the Corporation of London (the local authority for the City of London), explored Atlas data about services in the City. For more information about the borough focus please see the introductory blog in this series.
The City of London is a unique area in many ways, including its rough sleeping services. Relative to its small geographical size, the area has a high level of rough sleeping. An extensive range of services are commissioned by the Corporation to address this, and exciting new services are due to become operational by the end of the year.
The profile of people experiencing rough sleeping in the City of London, is weighted towards men, often White British people but also those from Europe. The City of London has a proportionately high number of people who have slept rough for long periods and may be resistant to traditional routes off the street, finding that existing services do not meet their needs. [i] Over recent years the emergence of younger people with complex needs around health and drug use has required services to adjust and adapt.
As is often the case, the needs of those who sleep on the streets, are varied and patterns shift over time. Data analysis, research and innovation is central to the Corporation’s approach, and they are an influential force in the development of new responses. For example, through partnership projects including such as No First Night Out, Personalised Budgets for people rough sleeping and developing the Lodge accommodation projects (see also prevention and accommodation below). [ii]
Outreach & assessment services
The largest rough sleeping service commissioned by the Corporation of London is the Outreach Team – this is run by Thames Reach and consists of nine staff members. The team are able to achieve high coverage – with a rotation of three shifts and day covering the area comprehensively. The team is not reliant on looking in hotspots, or StreetLink referrals to the same extent that those working in larger boroughs are.
‘This level of resource means that if you are sleeping rough in the City of London, the outreach team is very likely to find you and offer help.” (Kirsty Lowe)
CHAIN figures mapped on the Atlas show that the 372 people were contacted while sleeping rough by outreach teams during the period April 2021 – March 2022, a slight increase on the previous year when 350 people were contacted. [iii] The line chart on the right-hand side of the borough map shows that over the last eight years rough sleeping figures from CHAIN have done up and down and been within the range of 348 and 441 across the period. Conversely, street counts and estimates figures went down slightly from 23 in November 2020 to 20 in November 2021. [iv]
The outreach team is closely supported by a team of three MIST workers – this stands for Mobile Intervention Support Team. The MIST team provides an onward resettlement and short-term tenancy sustainment service, so when people go into accommodation, they have support to help them retain this. The City and Tower Hamlets Navigator project also work closely with outreach staff; they are able to provide intensive and flexible support to people who face barriers to moving on from rough sleeping, usually for people who have been sleeping rough for more than six months. Navigator services are due to be mapped in the Atlas 2023 release, as the approach has become increasingly common over recent years.
In March 2020 the City rapidly developed an assessment centre ‘Carter Lane’ for people with higher levels of support need to enable people to socially distance and self-isolate safely during the height of the pandemic. The service was provided by Providence Row Housing Association (PRHA) and closed in early summer 2021. ‘City Voices’, a report into the learning from the project and the City’s response to Everyone In was published in 2021. [v]
Informed by City Voices, combined with pre-pandemic plans, a new 14 bed assessment centre based within the City of London itself is due to open before the end of the year. In the meantime, hotel spaces funded by the Corporation of London are being utilised as assessment spaces, alongside the pan London Turnaround Hubs, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), for people who are new to rough sleeping.
The Atlas map shows that the Corporation of London has one accommodation project commissioned solely for City clients. Crimscott Street is a 21-bed service aimed at those with lower to medium support needs run by PRHA. Crimscott Street is located just over the border in Southwark.
The Corporation also accesses a significant number of spaces at The City Lodge and The Lodge at St Ursula’s (St Mungo’s). These projects, initiated and developed by the Corporation and delivered by St Mungo’s, offer innovative B&B-style accommodation to people aged over 40 who have slept rough for a long time and who prefer a ‘hands off’ approach to support. The number of spaces City clients occupy varies, but as an example at the time of writing there were around 20 City clients across the two Lodge projects. While the Lodge is essentially hostel accommodation people are able to stay for as long as they wish to.
The Corporation also has spot-purchasing arrangements for spaces in hostels neighbouring boroughs. This is shown on the right-hand side of the borough focus for the City and includes spaces six spaces at St Mungo’s Great Guilford Street in Southwark and five spaces at Providence Row Dellow Centre hostel in Tower Hamlets. A new accommodation project due to open before the end of the year, will focus on people with higher support needs and/or for whom services have not proven effective so far; this will result in a reduction in the number of spot-purchased places used by the Corporation.
In addition to hostel spaces, the Corporation makes use of self-contained temporary accommodation, provided to around 40 people at any one time who have experienced rough sleeping. Typically, this is people known to the City outreach team who might face particular struggles sustaining of living safely hostel accommodation, for example vulnerable women or those who have mental health problems that make hostel environments more challenging.
Move on for people staying in hostels and other temporary accommodation, is a challenge for the Corporation of London as it is for the whole of London. [vi] Those with support needs may move on from hostels and assessment services or temporary accommodation into Clearing House homes or social housing, though both are in short supply. The Corporation uses Rough Sleeping Initiative Funding to secure private rented tenancies in partnership with ethical PRS providers including Forward trust, Causeway and Hope Worldwide. This was developed as a way of mainstreaming learning from the No First Night Out project.
A small Housing First project working across Hackney and the City of London will end this year, the Corporation will identify the best way to provide ongoing Housing First support to approximately ten people from the City of London who are accommodated though this project.
Specialist Health services
Recent years have seen an increase in the provision of specialist health services available to people in the City of London. These health and public health commissioned services, are key partners for rough sleeping services and commissioners.
- Turning Point Rough Sleeping Drug & Alcohol Treatment Grant (RSATG), which covers Hackney and City of London to assist people with experience of rough sleeping into services.
- Rough Sleeping and Mental Health Programme (RAMHP) a programme which aims to support increased access to mental health services started as a two-year pilot, but has now been extended. Kirsty describes this as ‘worth its weight in gold’ in bridging the gap between homelessness and mental health interventions.
- A dual diagnosis treatment pilot at the Greenhouse Clinic in Hackney was commissioned as part of the City and Hackney Mental Health Strategy 2019-2023 targeting people with mental health and substance misuse problems, who are likely to be excluded from mental health services due to their drug or alcohol misuse, including people with experience of rough sleeping.
- Change Please and NHS North East London Clinical Commissioning Group also launched the Driving for Change project in early 2022, which sees repurposed London buses used as mobile bases to provide GP consultations, dental care and therapy assessments, showers alongside a wide range of other services. A bus visits a City of London site once a week.
The last five years have seen widespread changes in the services commissioned for people experiencing rough sleeping in the City of London.
“Our rough sleeping team at the Corporation has grown four-fold in recent years, thanks to opportunities from central government through the Rough Sleeping Initiative. Rough Sleeping Coordinator and Social Worker posts piloted were really successful and are now embedded.” (Kirsty Lowe, Rough Sleeping Services Manager)
The Corporation was committed to developing new services before the pandemic hit. However, the pandemic has influenced and expediated these plans. The centrality of health and public health services to addressing homelessness was also brought to the fore during the height of Covid-19 and is reflected in the work undertaken in partnership with health colleagues.
“The next few months will be a truly exciting time with the new assessment service and high support needs hostel opening. These services have been designed to help people make a sustainable move away from rough sleeping and have been informed by learning from the pandemic, our expert partners and critically those who have themselves slept rough in the City of London.” (Kirsty Lowe, Rough Sleeping Services Manager)
Thank you to Kirsty and the Corporation for taking the time to discuss local rough sleeping services for the third in our ‘borough spotlight’ series. It was great to really deep dive into the City’s services in our conversation at the iconic Barbican Centre! We look forward to keeping in touch with the progress of the new services when they open in the coming months.
Readers – if you would like the borough you work in to feature, and would be happy to take part in an interview to provide your perspective please get in touch with Becky – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have a housing problem and need to contact Corporation of London you can find information here https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/housing/homelessness-or-at-risk/help-available. See StreetLink London for information on how to refer someone who is rough sleeping to outreach services. Please remember that if you think someone is in immediate danger or is under 18 and sleeping rough call 999.
[i] Rice, B Hough, S. (2021) City Voices: learning from the response to Covid 19, Groundswell and City of London [ii] Ibid. See www.nfno.org.uk for research and evaluation about the project. An evaluation of the Lodge was undertaken by the Policy Institute at Kings College but is not available publicly: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/an-evaluation-of-the-lodge-at-st-ursulas(38bb8f80-7ade-49e6-8ce0-ee249bddacca).html [iii] CHAIN is a multi-agency database recording information about people sleeping rough in London. The service is commissioned by the GLA and delivered by Homeless Link. For more information see: https://homeless.org.uk/what-we-do/streetlink-and-chain/chain/ figures [iv] See the Atlas Methods and Data section to find out more about the Street Counts https://www.lhfatlas.org.uk/methods-and-data [v] Op Cit Rice & Hough [vi] ‘Move On’ refers to people securing a medium to long term home after staying in emergency or short term accommodation (usually intended to be up to around two years but can be longer).