The Rough Sleeping Team at Chichester District Council have been helping raise awareness of organisations in the district that they work with who support rough sleepers off the streets.
The team works very closely with the charity HEART, and recently organised a visit by Chichester MP Gillian Keegan. Based at St Pancras Church, the charity runs a daily drop-in session for rough sleepers and people who are vulnerably housed.
Mrs Keegan spent time chatting to clients and volunteers, as well as the Rough Sleeper Outreach Team.
Councillor Alan Sutton, the council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Licensing, Communications and Events, says: “HEART and their dedicated team of volunteers do an amazing job supporting individuals and they play a key part in helping keep people off the streets in our district.
“What many people probably don’t realise is that they help to provide some structure to people’s lives. Clients can go there in the morning and get a good start to the day with a meal and conversation. Volunteers also signpost them to the wide range of support on offer to them by various partners in the district. By providing this vital service they are helping to prevent many people from facing homelessness. The session gives some meaning to people’s day as well as providing somewhere where they can feel part of the community. The centre has a wonderful atmosphere and provides a positive start to a lot of clients’ days which is extremely important.
“Our outreach team also work closely with Stonepillow and the Four Streets Project. It is proving to be a really strong partnership and we know that it is making a real difference. In addition, our Make Your Change Count campaign has been successful in raising awareness of the different charities and how people can help, as well as educating people about the work that is being done to reduce rough sleeping and homelessness. The members of the public that we have spoken to have been pleasantly surprised by the extent of the work being done and that all the organisations are working together and not in isolation.”
The Four Streets Project provides a supper club and essential items to people on the streets. It recently relaunched its service back at St Paul’s Church, Chichester following a period based at Stonepillow, while renovation work took place. The Four Streets Project offers an evening service, providing food and drink, as well as a meeting place for those who want to engage positively with the local community.
Cllr Sutton adds: “Although we have been able to help many people, there will always be those who choose to stay on the street. In these cases, our team will continue to reach out to them, keep in contact, earn their trust and encourage them to take up support when they are ready.
“Thanks to the combined effort of the partnership we have reduced rough sleeping hugely over the last 18 months which is a result of everyone working together.”
“Our Make Your Change Count campaign aims to encourage people to give to our local charity partners so they can support rough sleepers long-term, rather than giving money directly to people on the street.
“We know that people in the district are extremely generous and want to help rough sleepers but we want to encourage people to help in the most effective way possible. What we have found is that while people are being very generous and giving money directly, this is actually helping to keep people on the streets, and preventing people from accessing the long-term, specialist support that they need. There is a lot of support available in the district for rough sleepers and by giving to our excellent local charities, you will be helping them to provide sustained support to clients.
“Also, what many people don’t realise when they give money is that not everyone on the streets is homeless. Unfortunately, there are some people who come into the city simply to beg for money and it can be very difficult to tell the difference. In Chichester city centre there are often as many as ten people who have come into the city just for the day in order to beg, and sometimes they travel a fair distance because they know that people here are so willing to help.
“You can find out more about the Make Your Change Count campaign, our local homelessness charities and how to donate, at: www.chichester.gov.uk/makeyourchangecount ”
Chichester District Council has a team of rough sleeper outreach workers who carry out daily checks on every rough sleeper to offer them support and make them aware of the help that is available to them. This includes working with the council’s community wardens, and the local homeless charities to ensure that rough sleepers are safe.