News: The Connection’s new model for supporting people rough sleeping in Westminster

The Connection at St Martin’s is at the heart of the capital’s response to homelessness. About 1 in 13 of everyone forced to sleep rough in England is found in Westminster, more than any other local authority.

After an incredible year which saw us adapt how we work and strengthened our partnerships, we have taken the lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic to reshape our services. This response, coupled with our experience, shows us that intensive support is the best way to empower people to start to change their lives.

When the first lockdown closed traditional day and night centres, we were part of a national drive to get people into hotels in order to self-isolate – with everyone pulling together to make this happen. We remained on the frontline running two hotels ourselves, offering food, beds, access to health services and wraparound support. This was an incredible opportunity for many people to make real progress in their lives and a foundation on which to recover and move into accommodation.

However, simply giving people a roof over their head is not always enough – many people have other needs that must be addressed in order to enable them to recover from homelessness and thrive in a home.

That’s why from July 1, we are introducing a new approach to supporting people sleeping rough in Westminster, building on what we previously offered.

We will work with people to find out what they want to achieve and what they need. Based on this, we will identify with people which of two paths and levels of support is right for them:

– Short-term support and advice – helping people to search for and get into work and access accommodation, linking into other services and access to opportunities that build the skills, confidence and resilience to recover from homelessness.
– Longer term, more intensive support – for people who are rough sleeping and may also have mental health issues, physical health issues or harmful substance use. We will work intensively with people at their own pace – supporting them to recognise their own strengths, recover from crisis and move away from the streets for good.

This model was co-produced with our staff, and in consultation with our clients, volunteers, supporters and colleagues from across Westminster. Their views and feedback also helped us to update our branding and identity, working with a pro bono company, to better reflect our new focus and developments in our services. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this process.

Our services are now delivered at our resource centre at Adelaide Street, at the Bridge which offers emergency accommodation in a former hotel, and at St Martin’s House, our supported housing project in South London. Alongside our support, we will use what we know to support policy making and legislation to address rough sleeping across the UK.

Pam Orchard, CEO of The Connection, said:

“Our new model for our services will focus our efforts on those who need our support the most, those people whose journey from the streets is affected by issues such as mental health needs, substance misuse, physical health or offending. We believe this will better enable people to tackle the underlying causes of their homelessness so that a path away from the streets becomes a possibility.

“We will continue to provide a broad range of services, and we will remain true to our vision and values, recognising people as individuals with their own unique experiences, strengths and talents, and putting them in the centre of their recovery.“