Building relationships

Building relationships is at the centre of our work. It’s how we build trust to effective be there for people sleeping rough in Westminster.

It often starts with a chat, a cup of tea and perhaps a hot meal or shower. Simple things that aren’t easy when you’re living on the streets.

Then it’s about listening to people, and building trust, so we can work out together what they need next. This could be finding somewhere to live, access to health services, opportunities to gain skills or growing their confidence.

We get to know each person we work with. For people who have been pushed to the edge, this can be complicated. When you feel let down by the system, and by humankind, it’s not always easy to find or accept help. So we stick with people, and find ways to get them what they need.

Building relationships: how do we do it?

85% of people sleeping rough have experienced abuse or trauma as children. Life on the streets is also a trauma in itself, meaning that many people continue a vicious cycle. People become isolated and can feel as though they don’t matter. They often experience violence and abuse and can develop harmful behaviours as a way of coping. In other words, they can ‘give up’ on themselves.

cycle of trauma graphic

This means that people can be in very challenging situations – with very complex needs – and are likely to be resistant to engaging with support services.

Our years of experience have taught us that the best way to build a meaningful relationship is by working at the right pace for people, building trust over time, and being consistent.

Working with a Clinical Psychologist from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM), we’ve developed a ‘psychologically-informed environment’ at our day centre. Trauma and poor mental health is one of the biggest barriers to people accessing support, so all of our services are designed to help people to overcome this to get the help they need.

This can be as simple as painting the walls more soothing colours, or more complex, such as tailoring our support to take every person’s trauma into account.

Our Theory of Change

Our Theory of Change has been developed and tested in partnership with staff, clients, psychologists, Westminster partners, homelessness sector partners like Homeless Link and external experts.

The Theory of Change outlines how we support people from feeling unengaged and uninterested in change, to feeling secure and stable with a place to call home and strong support networks for the future. All of our services are being reviewed to ensure that they align with our theory of change and everyone is clear about how their role fits into the overall aim of the organisation.

Engaging with people

Our Street Engagement Team (SET) is a daytime outreach team in Westminster. The role of the SET is to encourage people who aren’t engaging with services to do so and begin their journey towards recovery. This can be a lengthy process which varies from person to person.

This year, the team made 1,390 street contacts with 356 individuals.

As the relationship builds, the team can open a dialogue about what support can be offered, and how we can help the person get to where they want to be. This could be arranging health interventions, making accommodation referrals or doing activities together. Building these relationships is central to our work and homelessness recovery.