The Magpie Project wins Prestigious 2019 London Homelessness Award and £30,000

The Magpie Project, a community response to the problem of homeless families in Newham has been announced as the first prize winner of the London Homelessness Awards 2019.  The team, based in Newham, work with mums during their time without secure housing.

In the last two years, more than 300 mums have accessed the project and sessions are often full with 50 or more mums and 75 children at the sessions.  On average the team see five new families a week.

Jane Williams works at the Magpie Project.  She said:

“We were honoured to be shortlisted for this prize especially alongside five other incredible and innovative projects. But to win is just extraordinary. It is a massive boost for the Magpie Project. The prize gives us confidence that our person-based, trauma informed, multi-disciplinary, co-produced help is recognised as a good model.”

“Being judged by giants in the sector such as Shelter and Crisis is a big honour. But most of all, the prize, raises the profile of the mums and minis in temporary accommodation whose needs have not previously been met and voices not heard.”

“Although the families with under-fives seen at the project are rarely rough sleeping, they can be sofa-surfing, in refuges, or in cramped, grubby, inadequate temporary accommodation. Their children are uniquely vulnerable. Squalid accommodation and destitution make potty training, adequate sleep, play, good diet or exercise impossible to achieve. This can often lead to delayed development and trauma.”

“So, three times a week we open our doors to offer a secure place to stay and play; somewhere for mums to find solace, respite and food, clothes, nappies, a listening ear. Then, when mums are ready, we bring professionals from health, immigration, housing, early years to support and advise them in addressing their issues and improve their lives.”

Dianne has visited the project with her young children. She said:

“The Magpie Project gave me hope when I had none. I went there when I could not see a way out of my situation – but they worked with me on solving my problems and now I feel happier and more hopeful. The Magpie Project gave me wings”

Simon Dow of the London Housing Foundation chaired the judging panel for this year’s awards.  He said:

“The judges were very positive about all of our finalists but in the end felt that The Magpie Project had the edge, meeting an often unmet need for a vulnerable client group.  We hope that this awards, and the £30,000, helps them go from strength to strength.”

Other prize winners, winning £20000 and £10000 were the North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service and The Passage’s Anti-Slavery Project

More details of the winning projects, and the three highly commended are set out below:

First Prize (£30,000)

The Magpie Project

There are 2,000 statutory homeless under-fives in Newham.

Rarely street homeless, these families are sofa-surfing, in refuges, or cramped, grubby, inadequate temporary accommodation.  They are uniquely vulnerable.

Squalid accommodation and destitution make potty training, adequate sleep, play, good diet or exercise impossible to achieve. This plays out in delayed development and trauma.

The Magpie Project is a community response to this problem. We believe in safeguarding children and aiding mums during their time without secure housing.

Three times a week we open our doors to offer a secure place to stay and play; somewhere for mums to find solace, respite and food, clothes, nappies, a listening ear. Then, when mums are ready, we bring professionals from health, immigration, housing, early years to support and advise mums in addressing their issues and improve their lives.

In two years, 300 mums have accessed our help, we regularly have 50 or more mums and 75 children at our sessions, and welcome, on average, 5 new families a week.

Mums tell us they feel a hope and belonging that enables them to address their problems. Professionals say they receive appropriate referrals and a great space in which work alongside mums for a better life.

Prize winner (£20,000)

The Passage’s Anti-Slavery Project

Homelessness and modern slavery often go hand in hand.  If you are on the streets you are at risk of being targeted by criminals involved in modern slavery; many victims who escape modern slavery end up street homeless and when you’re a victim of modern slavery (even with a roof over your head), you do not have a home.

The Passage, who run the largest Resource Centre for homeless people in the UK, are addressing this issue with their Anti-Slavery Project in partnership with homelessness prevention and accommodation schemes.

Witnessing first-hand many instances of clients being targeted by criminals involved in modern slavery the team set out to tackle this unmet need in a sustainable and easy to replicate way. By raising awareness within the street community, offering training to front line staff in homelessness agencies, and facilitating cross sector working (statutory and voluntary sector) they are bringing about real change.

The Passage’s findings and recommendations from year 1 of this project form the platform to bring about systemic change.  This is required to ensure that there will be adequate provision for those on the streets who are also potential victims of this appalling crime.

Prize winner (£10,000)

North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service

The North London Early Homelessness Prevention Service is an innovative, previously untried model establishing a range of trailblazer intervention projects across 6 North London authorities – as part of testing approaches under the Homelessness Reduction Act.  The Service identifies households at early risk of homelessness, taking referrals from key public services.

The Service is unique in the way it is managed and its approach to trialling different prevention themes. It takes a different approach by reaching out to the community to identify homelessness risk: a radical shift from a typical local authority approach and involving an element of risk to measure which interventions work and test demand.  By intervening early the Service is able to resolve problems before they escalate.

Between September 2017 and April 2019 a total 359 households were positively prevented or relieved from homelessness.   Additionally, some people have accessed supported housing or received mediation to remain in their family home.  The team has made a positive impact on the lives of the people worked with; providing debt advice and income maximisation; resolving housing benefit and Universal Credit problems and requesting backdated payments or DHP awards; providing legal advocacy to negotiate with landlords, and mediation to prevent family exclusions.

Highly Commended Projects

The King’s Health Partners Pathway Homelessness Team at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is a specialist inter-professional team, working with inpatients in mental health wards who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  The service improves quality of care, health, housing and wider outcomes for people in a mental health hospital in Lambeth and Southwark. We provide holistic assessments, daily expert review and person-centred interventions. We assertively advocate for patients through partnership within the Trust and a range of community and voluntary services, ensuring timely and safe transition   into housing, community health, addictions, and care and support services. We work with homeless inpatients, irrespective of nationality, eligibility, recourse to public funds or local connection and work closely with  Pathway teams at King’s College Hospital,  Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trusts and the community Health Inclusion Teams.

This original service offers value, whist delivering compassionate and person-centred care for the most vulnerable patients in society. Underpinned by research, we have developed adaptable resources to support broad disseminating of the service model across London. We hope to develop a free toolkit and support others to implement their own service while offering   improved support for patients in community mental health teams.

The Haringey Rough Sleeping Taskforce is a multi-disciplinary collaboration of public, voluntary and community sector services working to tackle the harms of rough sleeping. People focussed, the team prioritises relationships and personalised outcomes, working in partnership to find solutions that help people sustainably exit street homelessness.

Despite increasing trends in rough sleeping, and a challenging policy and legislative environment, the taskforce has achieved a 30% reduction in street homelessness since September 2018. By working relationally and supportively with individuals, utilising a toolkit of interventions and service offers, they have supported a significant number of long-term street homeless people to secure positive housing outcomes.

From summer 2019, there will be a new addition to their rough-sleeping work, a one-stop-shop service called Mulberry Junction, providing advice, support and accommodation options for single homeless people in Haringey, focussing on rough sleeping and multiple disadvantage.

The taskforce has developed a unique Homelessness Fatality Review procedure; a multi-disciplinary review is conducted if someone dies whilst homeless in the borough. The review procedure aims to bring about positive change to policies and working practices affecting homeless people, and will publish an annual report as part of the work of the Haringey Safeguarding Adults Board.

SHP’s Sport and Health Project is transforming the lives of homeless and vulnerable people through sport and physical activity.

We are working across London with 450 people, including those who are over 55 and homeless, or at risk of homelessness; a group with a unique set of health challenges. The project breaks down the barriers facilitating access into healthcare and sport.

Using weekly physical activity sessions built around individual interests we also provide regular health checks.  The project aims to prolong lives, improve mental and physical health and reduce isolation.

As a result, people who would never have imagined going near a gym are now enjoying the benefits of exercise. We are seeing significant health gains amongst a section of the population that mainstream services have struggled to reach – including those with chronic physical conditions, substance use needs, mental ill health and histories of rough sleeping.

The project is having a sustained impact. Three out of four participants reported improvements in their mental health. Almost 9 in 10 are still active after six months.

The project serves as a replicable model for developing more effective strategies to tackle the health inequalities that persist among socially-excluded people in the UK.

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