We are very proud to launch this independently commissioned report – ‘Views from the Frontline’. Drawing on the experience and insights of frontline staff, it highlights the activities, impact and key learning points of the 2017/18 Winter Initiative work across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Actions directly leading to life off the streets
The report clearly shows that when we give our frontline staff the power to act, amazing things can happen for the people we support, even those with the most extreme needs. Multiple case studies in the report show the profound (and sustained) impacts of actions taken by staff to support people to find a life off the streets. Many of those reached, engaged and enabled off the streets during this period had long histories of experiencing rough sleeping, extremely poor health and a consistent struggle with engaging with support and treatment.
Scottish Government commitment and initiative
The rapid action and resource allocation commenced in December 2017 following the formation of the Scottish Government ‘Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group (HARSAG) in November 2017. The first questions this group were tasked with, was to respond to the question: What can be done to reduce rough sleeping this winter (2017/18)?
This report captures the enhanced activities of Streetwork, Simon Community Scotland and Aberdeen Cyrenians frontline services and the many partners they work with across the three cities. The enhanced activities included:
- the introduction of ‘Personalised Budgets’ – a trailblazing innovation empowering frontline staff to make timely, on-the-spot decisions to end rough sleeping
- a model of direct and rapid access accommodation in Edinburgh
- stronger inter-agency working, including through Inter-Agency Street Networks
- increased capacity and co-location of partner services within night/care shelters and outreach hubs.
Changing and saving lives
The positive impact over the winter – particularly with the harsh weather conditions and our ‘Beast from the East’ experience – cannot be overestimated. Literally hundreds of people did not spend the night sleeping on the streets of our three main cities. Many received much needed health inputs and found sustainable resolution as a direct result. As highlighted by our CEO, Lorraine McGrath, “Lives have been changed through their actions and, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say, lives have been saved.”
Doing what we do:
Amplifying and extending existing models of practice
Much of what we did over the winter was already in practice, but in much smaller ways, this initiative gave approaches greater life and formality and in some cases increased capacity to act. It also provided a way to properly evidence the value and impact of both existing and new ways of working.
No wheels were reinvented. We simply amplified and extended existing effective models of practice, strengthened collaborations, focused our attentions and actions on the most vulnerable and, most vitally, gave the power to act and direct resources to those that know best and have the greatest opportunity: the staff that know, meet and work to engage people sleeping rough every day.
The report highlights that the momentum and national ambition to end rough sleeping is shared and owned at a local level. Actions from the Winter Initiative have directly supported frontline staff to better connect and engage with people who sleep rough – and led to more people being supported off this street this winter.
Seeing opportunity not risk and barriers
We are immensely proud of everyone – especially our own Street Teams and Outreach Workers – who pushed their organisational and professional boundaries, moved beyond their comfort zone, saw more opportunity than risk and barriers, and worked tirelessly (as always) just to make things happen for those we are most concerned about. Together we have doubtless saved and changed lives through these actions.
Thanks also to Dougie Paterson, who conducted all the interviews and drew this report together.
Click the link to see the ‘Views from the Frontline: The 2017/18 Winter Initiative’ report.
Streetwork are delighted to have welcomed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to our Holyrood Hub today. The visit was to announce that the recommendations from the Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group have been approved by the Scottish Government. This ensures there is a mandate and resources available to better support people and help combat homelessness this winter.
Nicola Sturgeon was joined by Kevin Stewart (Minister for Local Government & Housing) and Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of Crisis UK and Chair of the Scottish Government Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.
Streetwork’s Chief Executive, Lorraine McGrath, is a member of the Action Group representing both Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland: “It’s great to be part of such rapid action and to have this support from the Scottish Government and local services; support that will enable our street teams, at Streetwork and Simon Community Scotland, to simply make the right things happen, right now, to deliver that vital difference for people in the most extreme circumstances and end their need sleep rough this winter.”
Streetwork are very proud to be making things happen for people experiencing homelessness and continue to collaborate with partners to find solutions that can really work for the people we support this winter.
While visiting Streetwork’s Holyrood Hub, it was encouraging to see that the key emphasis of the Minister’s time was spent engaging with the people the use Streetwork services, as well as staff and volunteers.
The First Minister said: “I want to thank the Action Group for the serious and urgent work they have done. These actions, which the government accepts in full and will roll out immediately, will provide more support for those who find themselves homeless and more safe and warm places to stay this winter.”
Delighted to host First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Housing Minister Kevin Stewart as they launched recommendations from the Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group.
Read more in the Scottish Government Press Release below:
Tackling rough sleeping this winter
Immediate actions put in place
An increase in emergency accommodation and outreach provision for rough sleepers are among the actions announced today to further tackle the problem of homelessness.
The Scottish Government’s Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Action Group has recommended the measures to address rough sleeping this winter – backed by an initial £328,000 worth of investment from government and Action Group members.
Since its first meeting on 5 October, the Action Group has worked at pace, and closely with local authorities and partners, to identify areas where there is the greatest need and actions that can have the most impact. Since its first meeting on 5 October, the Action Group has worked at pace, and closely with local authorities and partners, to identify areas where there is the greatest need and actions that can have the most impact.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was joined by Housing Minister Kevin Stewart and Action Group chair and Chief Executive of Crisis UK, Jon Sparkes, to announce the plans on a visit to homelessness charity Streetwork.
The First Minister said:
“I want to thank the Action Group for the serious and urgent work they have done. These actions, which the government accepts in full and will roll out immediately, will provide more support for those who find themselves homeless and more safe and warm places to stay this winter.
“We have a shared commitment to eradicate rough sleeping and end homelessness which is why we established the Action Group, backed by £50 million to drive change.
“While we take these immediate steps to help those who find themselves at risk of rough sleeping this winter, the Group’s work now continues as we strive to end rough sleeping for good.”
Jon Sparkes said:
“As the cold weather bites, it’s critical to support as many people sleeping on the streets as possible. However, the longer-term focus of the Action Group is on sustainable solutions which prevents people rough sleeping in the first place and our focus is now on looking at the practical and systems changes required to end rough sleeping for good.”
“These proposals mean that immediate, effective support can be given to people sleeping rough this winter, as well as making longer-term solutions easier to access.
“The effort and energy of Action Group members to work quickly to identify practical support along with the willingness of council leaders and sector colleagues to commit to more flexible practices at short notice has been remarkable.
“The decision to accept our recommendations and the fact that the First Minister is leading on the Scottish Government’s commitment to accept our recommendations and provide additional funding is vitally important. Not only will this ensure plans are put into place as quickly as possible but it also inspires confidence that the leadership required to meet the long-term goal of ending homelessness in Scotland is in place.”
The full recommendations of the group are available online. Focused on the areas identified as the greatest numbers of rough sleepers they include:
- Increase emergency accommodation in Edinburgh, and increase outreach capacity in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen
- Boost multi-agency partnership working, adopting ‘by name lists’ and empowering front line workers through direct access to services and dedicated accommodation
- Making personal budgets and/or flexible emergency fund available for front line staff to employ where maximum flexibility is required to meet immediate housing needs
- At times of extreme weather, ensure flexible provision is available in Edinburgh and Glasgow for anyone who will not use winter night shelters, despite all efforts
- Maximise use of Nightstop – which provide young people with emergency accommodation for up to 2 weeks in the homes of approved volunteers – in Edinburgh and support implementation in Glasgow by January 2018
More information on the action group is available online.
We’re looking for your help. Here’s how
Every day our staff are out on the Streets supporting vulnerable people to get assistance, critical supplies, connect with services and to enable a life off the street. With the support of volunteers we are able to reach many people on the street but we want to do more and reach more people so we’re looking to launch a new service called Street Cycles and we’re looking for your support.
Street Cycles – going the extra mile!
We want to expand our current outreach work, reaching further inside and around the city centre, connecting with more people, carrying more supplies and ultimately allowing us to support more people. To achieve this, we want to trial a new pedal-powered team, offering street outreach on bicycles.
The cycle team will travel in pairs on specially equipped bicycles, capable of carrying large quantities of essential items including food, clothing, first aid, sanitary products, harm reduction kits, underwear and information on available support. The team also undertake a mapping exercise where they seek out rough sleeping sites to engage and support the people they find hand in hand with our Street Team.
By mapping the city and offering essential supplies, our outreach team can make vital connections with people. This helps us build contact and trust with those we support. More experienced and trained staff are then able to follow up with individuals and support people off the streets.
What we need?
To make this new initiative a success, we really need to have the cycling community behind it. We need support in a variety of ways :
Volunteering: We need confident (and fit!) cyclists for this important role, for which we provide ‘Cycle Patrol’ and other training. Our Street Team staff provide ongoing support so that volunteers feel confident and are able to provide initial signposting to people they meet. We ask Street Cycles Volunteers to commit to a minimum of 1 shift per week, although 2 or more is better. Shifts are typically 4 hours.
Equipment: To equip a single volunteer to deliver this outreach service is a significant financial investment, as we can’t afford to cut back on capable, reliable and safe equipment for our volunteers to use. This includes clothing such as Hi-Vis cycle jackets, waterproof trousers, overshoes and helmets. Not to mention One fully kitted touring frame and panniers £1000. We are seeking cycling companies that want to align themselves with this positive charitable project, for donations of the equipment we require.
Donations: We are always seeking donations of dry food items, sanitary products and men/womens underwear. Our cycle outreach team will carry and distribute all these ‘basic’ items, which can offer comfort and dignity to people sleeping rough. Find out how you can get in touch to donate below.
Funding: There are also additional costs such as consumables, ongoing maintenance, and volunteer training. Any organisations wishing to financially support this project will know that 100% of their money is going to frontline work to support people on their journey out of homelessness. If you are able to assist in funding our new outreach initiative, then find out how you can get in touch below.
Premises: We require storage for a small fleet of bikes and enough space to conduct routine maintenance on them. Ideally a central location in Edinburgh, and this could be a challenge. If you are able to assist in helping us locate premises at no or very low cost please contact us below.
Want to get involved?
We’re hoping to launch the project early next year and we’re looking for people who would be interested in finding out more about volunteering. If you’re that person please complete the expression of interest form and we’ll be in touch next year.