For our latest Atlas blog, Atlas project manager Becky Rice, and Jon Scarth, Commissioning Manager at the London Borough of Lewisham (LB Lewisham) explored the Atlas borough map for Lewisham to look in depth at some of the local services provided for people experiencing rough sleeping. You can access the borough map here.
Outreach and navigators
Lewisham is one of six boroughs where Thames Reach’s London Street Rescue (LSR) service provides street outreach to connect with people rough sleeping. Lewisham and Greenwich share a dedicated LSR staff member to work with clients. Sitting alongside street outreach, is coordination of all casework for people experiencing rough sleeping in the area, by outreach navigators employed directly by the LB Lewisham.
Navigators build an understanding of each case, so they can help people access the range of support and services they need; most critically the best accommodation or reconnection and accommodation option to ensure an end to their rough sleeping. A key challenge in the Navigator’s work is finding solutions for people who may not have recourse to public funds and / or have issues with their immigration status. Navigators have access to personal budgets fund to pay for small items to help people met their very immediate needs and to promote engagement and build trust for example providing mobile phones or phone credit or some food or shopping when they move into a hostel.
Navigator services are not currently included in the Atlas but are increasingly a model drawn upon, to ensure that people are support to move through services in a more seamless way rather than having a disjointed experience of moving between different types of accommodation; this is an area for the Atlas team to explore and potentially add to our data collection.
There are two Lewisham day centres in the Atlas, the 999 Club and Thames Reach, Deptford Reach. They provide a wide range of services from food and showers to support and advice. LB Lewisham fund an Education, Training and Employment worker at Deptford Reach and the borough works in close partnership with day services via the homelessness forum.
The Atlas shows that Lewisham has 374 spaces in 14 accommodation projects for people who have recently experienced rough sleeping or are at immediate risk of rough sleeping. This list is currently being reviewed by the borough to see if some services have evolved to be more or less relevant to this group; the Atlas project team can make adjustments to data at any time.
The borough has a very well-established assessment centre where people stay while their best onward option is assessed, as well as a large hostel, smaller hostels and supported housing specifically for people who have experienced rough sleeping. Alongside this there is extensive provision of mental health supported housing in the borough (this is not shown in the Atlas as it does not specifically target those who have experienced rough sleeping). There is also a pathway for young people experiencing homelessness, though rarely experiencing rough sleeping specifically.
Over the last 18 months the rough sleeper’s accommodation pathway has been refined and developed, to ensure that these different accommodation types are used in the most flexible way possible to reduce rough sleeping. The approach has been in part due by the Covid-19 pandemic and the impetus to ensure that people do not need to return to sleeping in communal shelter accommodation following the Everyone In initiative in 2020 when all those rough sleeping were provided with single rooms in hostels and hotels. Lewisham’s winter shelter previously delivered by the 999 Club is not planning to reopen after the pandemic.
Working with mental health support providers such as Quo Vadis Trust (QVT) and Dinardos, the borough was able to add to the options for rough sleepers with spot purchased rooms in supported housing at projects with 24-hour on-site support, and those with lower, visiting support. This has added more diversity to the pathway and means that people who had already accessed the rough sleeping specific projects could have a fresh start in another location, with a different provider.
“Having a decent, varied pathway means there is a real offer for people to get them in, and gives time to get private rented sector move on off the back of it.”
Jon provided some insights into a couple of the key accommodation projects in the borough; the Lewisham Assessment and Recovery Centre (LARC) and Spring Gardens – both run by St Mungo’s and commissioned directly by LB Lewisham. LARC is the assessment service for the rough sleeper’s accommodation pathway. It has 43 beds and provides a high level of support including 24-hour staffing. There is generally a quick turnover, as it provides that vital accommodation directly from the streets, but it is recognised that some people will have longer stays if it’s the most appropriate place for them at that time. Spring Gardens is a large accommodation project with 68 spaces. There are pros and cons of a big site as Jon explained:
“It’s important to the borough to have a big service. Larger high support need services can attract negative attention and can be a hard environment for recovery. The flip side of that though is that we can give the service so much attention. CGL (the drug and alcohol service for the borough) go in most weekdays, nurses, GPs and other medical services also attend the site. This helps with multiagency safeguarding. You have a place where people with high needs can get the right support.”
Lewisham has the second largest Housing First service in London, which currently has capacity to support up to 60 clients and includes a specialist women’s worker. The service for Lewisham is run by Bench Outreach who secured funding from trusts to establish the services in. Housing First is now largely funded by LB Lewisham through the Rough Sleepers Initiative. In Lewisham, nearly all those accessing Housing First have social tenancies, arranged by the council in partnership with Bench Outreach and registered social landlords.
“Housing First do really good work, and is a very positive thing that it was born out of Bench Outreach, as this helps to build partnerships between the council and the voluntary sector organisations working with those experiencing rough sleeping and really know that world. We can see that Housing First work with people who have had to leave every other accommodation service.”
A theme in services commissioned or working in partnership with the borough is recovery; commissioned services are set up with this in mind. The ultimate aim is to have lasting solutions for people who have experienced rough sleeping. Ensuring increasingly Trauma Informed and Psychologically Informed approaches and services that are user centred and seek to continually improve in this area are also priorities for the team at the council. A partnership approach which involves both commissioned services and well-established independent services is also vital to ensure that resources are used to best effect in the borough – the local homelessness forum is attended by senior staff from both the LB Lewisham and local organisations and chaired by voluntary sector representatives.
Thank you to Jon and LB Lewisham for taking the time to discuss local rough sleeping services for the second in our ‘borough spotlight’ series! It was great to discuss the network of services supporting people in the area.
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 on firstname.lastname@example.org
[I] See Atlas blog about Housing First here [II] The Rough Sleeping Initiative is a government initiative providing funding to selected local authorities. It was first announced in March 2018 to make an immediate impact on the rising levels of rough sleeping. [III] Psychologically Informed Environments are services that are designed and delivered in a way that takes into account the emotional and psychological needs of the individuals using them. See Homeless Link’s website for more information: https://homeless.org.uk/areas-of-expertise/improving-homelessness-services/psychologically-informed/. Trauma-informed Care is an approach which can be adopted by organisations in order to improve awareness of trauma and its impact, to ensure that the services provided offer effective support and, above all, that they do not re-traumatise those accessing or working in services. See Homeless Link’s website for more information: https://homeless.org.uk/areas-of-expertise/improving-homelessness-services/trauma-informed-car/