Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Westminster reaches out

May 11 2014
The Connections gets new funding for  'assertive outreach'

A grant of £92,964 has been provided by the Homeless Transition Fund to The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields to help reduce the number of people forced to sleep rough in the London borough of Westminster.

The new service will aim to provide an ‘assertive outreach and casework service’ to help reduce the numbers of people who are sleeping rough in 10 'hotspots'. The grant will cover the costs of two salaries, client costs, and staff travel.

According to the Homeless Transition Fund, the service will be provided to 60 ‘entrenched rough sleepers on these sites, many with multiple complex needs, and up to a further 60 who are new to the streets and are attracted to existing hotspot sites’.

A spokesman for Westminster Council has given the new outreach its full backing: “We are supportive of this [new project], as it very much fits with our new model of street-based-services, due to start in July,” said a spokesman.

According to Westminster Council’s 2013–2016 rough sleeping strategy, the council has ‘an overarching priority to control hotspots’. In recent years it has also favoured building-based services, where rough sleepers can be assessed and supported.

In July 2005, the number of outreach services available in the Westminster area was significantly reduced when the council took the decision to put an end to them and instead offer more building-based homeless services.

According to the local government body, this transition in the way help was provided ‘assisted in bridging the gap between outreach and daycentres to provide a more cohesive service.’ Yet, outreach services were previously viewed at the time to be one of the most successful ways to lower the number of people sleeping rough and the Council’s reduction of this service was met with heavy criticism from many charities.

Consequently, the new project that The Connection will provide, can be seen as welcome step back to providing more outreach services. However, this service is unlikely to be able to help everyone sleeping rough in Westminster streets.

According to figures provided by CHAIN, a total of 558 people were sleeping rough in the last two months of 2013 (the most recently released data). Of this total, the number of ‘entrenched’ rough sleepers is more than double the number of people the scheme is capable of supporting. Similarly, the number of people who are ‘new to the streets’ of Westminster in the last months of 2013 stood at 160.