On Tuesday 16th February we welcomed Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick to The Bridge, our accommodation project for people sleeping rough in Westminster.
We were pleased to be able to introduce the Secretary to some of our key workers who have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to protect some of the most vulnerable members of society. We have remained on the frontline; running outreach shifts to find people on the streets, helping them into accommodation, cooking and delivering regular meals, offering access to nurses and other medical services and providing emotional support. You can read more about our Covid response here.
The pandemic has had a big impact on homelessness services. After lockdown closed traditional day and night centres, we saw a huge national focus on getting people into hotels to enable them to stay safe and well – with everyone pulling together to make this happen.
In hotels, people have been given a chance to experience a break from their norm. It’s given us a once in a lifetime opportunity to make real progress with some of the most vulnerable members of the homeless population – people who have often been on the streets for many years.
We know that simply giving people a roof over their head is never enough – many people have other needs that must be addressed in order to enable them to recover from homelessness and thrive in accommodation.
At The Bridge, we offer a range of services which are easily accessible and help residents as a whole. Residents can see nurses, drug and alcohol support, podiatrists, psychologists, speech and language therapists, as well as housing specialists to help them move on into other accommodation.
This approach is working. In Westminster, over 260 people have been helped from hotels into other accommodation. The latest street count showed the lowest number of people on the streets for many years. This is an incredible achievement and one we should are very proud of. We are very thankful for the way partners, in particular the Westminster Homeless Partnership, worked together to make this happen.
We must make sure we do not waste the opportunity the pandemic response has provided to support people away from the streets and into accommodation. We have made incredible progress, and we must not go back.
We also need to ensure we do not see a new wave of ‘Covid homeless’ as the economic impact of the pandemic kicks in – support must be in place to support people who are at risk of losing their jobs or homes.
We urge the Secretary of State, the government, Westminster City Council and other local authorities to continue to invest in services like The Bridge – we know it works. We look forward to sharing our experience, expertise and working closely with them to make this happen.