Dave is the Head of Engagement Services at the Connection, his role oversees various teams including the Resource Centre, The Bridge, and The Street Engagement Team. The services are year round, so there are seasonal challenges to working in homelessness, from walking the pavements in the snow to offer people support, to offering people a bottle of water during the 30 degree temperatures, which hit London last summer. They find different challenges as the seasons change.
Dave explains, “Our Street Engagement team are out on the streets in all weathers, it can be tough going out in the pouring rain, and when the temperatures plummet in the winter. But I can guarantee it’s harder to be sleeping on the streets in that weather.”
How does it feel working with people on the streets at Christmas? “It’s hard in the winter, people are cold and you try as hard as you can to move people into the warm. Being on the streets in the winter can affect you medically because of the consequences on your body of sleeping out in the cold but also mentally. The streets are difficult.”
Christmas promises a lot. There is an emphasis on being together with loved ones or family, which is not always possible if you’re sleeping rough. This can be hard. It is easier to think of those on the streets in the Winter.“The main differences in the winter compared to the summer is that for most of the winter, there’s much more of a feeling of urgency about the work we do. I suppose it’s because we all feel cold so it’s easier to think whilst you’re warm at home of those sleeping on the streets and you feel for people that are outside. We’re incredibly grateful for people’s support in the winter, without which our work would be much more difficult.” There are specific provisions which operate only in winter to support moving people off the streets of London in sub-zero temperatures. As Dave explains; “There’s things like severe weather emergency protocols (SWEP) that get activated, which mean that people can access short term, indoor spaces, and communal meals. These are fantastic for getting people inside in the colder months”.
Most people can imagine how hard it must be when it’s cold, but how is it working with people in the warmer months of summer? “In honesty, it’s a bit harder in the summer months because there’s less of the short term provisions around in terms of accommodation.” Hot weather also has its own challenges. “Sadly, I’ve seen people badly burned on the streets because they fell asleep in direct sunlight. Dehydration is also an issue when the sun is blazing all day and there’s little to no shelter. We’re there throughout this period referring people in to the Centre to move them off the streets.”
Dave and his teams support people in all weathers. That’s why a donation to us this Christmas will be used not only to bring people in from the cold this winter but also long into 2022. The Connection isn’t just here for Christmas. We’re here for people experiencing homelessness, every single day. We get to know people, building lasting relationships as they recover from life on the streets and as they move on to fulfilling futures.
Your donation will help us support people long after the Christmas decorations are packed away. So we can be there for those who need us most in the weeks, months and years ahead.