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Westminster homelessness charity awarded £10,000 for work during pandemic

St. Mungo’s street outreach service was recognized by the London Homelessness Awards for its role in the government’s “everyone in” pledge during the first COVID-19 lockdown in a ceremony on 14 October.

The service has operated in Westminster, which has the highest number of rough sleepers of any borough in the UK, since 2018.

Manager of Westminster street outreach service, Claire Hopkins said:

“We’re really pleased to be recognized. It’s incredible. I think we’ve all reflected this past week, and it almost feels like a pause to acknowledge the work that the team achieved over the last year.”

CELEBRATING A DIFFICULT YEAR: The London Homelessness Awards also recognized MyBnk: The Money House, Camden Health Improvement and Southwark Law Centre. Credit: St. Mungo’s

The charity runs 26 outreach services across the country, and worked throughout the pandemic to help rough sleepers move from the streets to emergency accommodation. Hopkins said:

“Overnight, in Westminster, it was a humanitarian crisis, essentially. There wasn’t anywhere for people to access public toilets; you couldn’t get drinking water anywhere; the kind of free food provisions that sustain a lot of people who are rough sleeping – everything had vanished. People were hungry, people were thirsty, people were really, really scared.”

The “everyone in” pledge also brought individuals with insecure accommodation arrangements, who may have been sofa-surfing or sleeping in public places, to the service. The service manager said.

“Suddenly those options weren’t on the table. The volume of people we were supporting went through the roof.”

But by adopting a “housing first” model, where individuals were assessed on vulnerability to the virus rather than eligibility to particular welfare schemes, the charity was able to help people find long-term housing options 1,632 times.

WORKING TOGETHER: Since the start of the pandemic, the organisation has continued the joint work it does on the street with health partners, Westminster Council, the GLA and the MHCLG. Credit: St. Mungo’s

Members of the Westminster street outreach service talk with a rough sleeper in the doorway of a building. Hopkins said.

“There were points pre-pandemic where the number of rough sleepers was around 380. During the pandemic the numbers were below 100, which has never happened in this borough before,”

The Westminster charity will invest the £10,000 in its through-care team, which offers personalized support to individuals placed in tenancies so they can sustain them and make them long-term homes. She added:

“We’re keen to take all of that learning forward, and continue helping anyone who finds themselves rough sleeping.”

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