Helping people Off The Streets in Nottinghamshire
Framework's County Street Outreach workers are out at 4am each morning finding and talking to people who are sleeping rough. Often the rough sleepers in Nottinghamshire county are unseen and well-hidden, making Service Manager Collette's job more challenging. We asked her some questions about her work.
What is the current rough sleeping situation in Nottinghamshire County?
In Nottinghamshire, we split into 7 different district areas; Gedling, Broxtowe, Bassetlaw, Mansfield, Ashfield, Rushcliffe and Newark.
The current rough sleeping situation is pretty dire. There are limited opportunities which impact on an individuals prospects.
The area which has the highest number of Rough Sleepers is Mansfield and close behind is Bassetlaw. Gedling is pretty much clear. The closer the district is to the city the lower numbers, we have evidence from the City Street Outreach Team that rough sleepers from the closer districts to the city do travel towards the city more and rough sleep there.
Why are people sleeping rough?
This is incredibly complex to answer, there are so many reasons why people sleep rough and each person’s story is entirely individual to them.
Common factors are things such as relationships breaking down, debt, lack of benefits and sanctions on benefits are having a massive impact. There’s also a lack of affordable housing. Mental health also contributes massively to people rough sleeping, social care needs not being met. It is an incredibly complex issue and we often find that the people we work with have several of these issues.
In what ways do Street Outreach help?
The Street Outreach Team help initially by aiming to find individuals on the streets by referrals These can be self referrals, through for example their GP, police, general public, anyone really.
Upon finding someone we will work with them toward getting back into accommodation and this isn’t necessarily easy or quick in the county. We also signpost rough sleepers to showers, places to access food and into agencies such as drug and alcohol support. We help a lot with health, we work with a nurse specialist on complex cases and aim to get our clients to the GP and linked back into physical healthcare.
We do have to challenge agencies where necessary to access support, such as mental health, however, as with most areas , the demand is increasing for such services and the provision is lessening.
We work with local authority, we will advocate and support people to present as homeless and have personal housing plans carried out. We also do referrals to accommodation providers. Sometimes we help mediate between clients and their families to see if we can help someone return home. This happens more so if the person is younger in age.
Is there a difference between sleeping rough in the city and the county?
Yes absolutely, both carry very high risks equally.
Rough sleeping is a very dangerous thing to be doing and one of the differences between the city and the county is that in the county, some rough sleepers, are far more hidden. They can be really difficult to find. They often sleep in bigger groups than in the city also. Some agencies and general public see rough sleepers being hidden away as a good thing. However, as a team we rely quite heavily on reports of rough sleepers being sighted.
My fear is that if they hide too well how will we know about them. And then what? I have already said provision is minimal and one of the things we can do is at least highlight what may be available to someone. Some of our rough sleepers feel they have no hope and resign themselves to a life of rough sleeping.
The locations we find in the city are more in the public’s eye (although not always) and in the county we all agree that the locations are far more depraved and often incredibly unhygienic and that’s horrible to see.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about rough sleepers?
For me, I think it’s people think that all Rough Sleepers are the same, it’s something we hear time and time again that all rough sleepers are substance misusers, they choose to live the way they live, they’re all up to no good. For me, the most damaging misconception is that they’re not worth fighting for or working with.
There is so much negativity towards homeless people and rough sleepers. Whilst we do see some positivity it is often outweighed by the negativity that is shown towards this cohort of people. The negativity just breathes further negativity. We need to challenge these misconceptions.
Could you tell me about some recent cases that have particularly stood out?
What do I use really? I could use everything. We’ve done some really fantastic multi-agency working recently with a couple who were rough sleeping in some woods and the amount of negativity on social media that was spoken about this couple was beyond belief. They had some very complex needs and it was only through multi-agency working that we were able to remove them from the woods.
Is there anything that the public could do to aid your work?
The first thing the public could do it to refer rough sleepers to the Rough Sleeping freephone number. Just call and let us know where you have seen someone rough sleeping, don’t assume that we already know about them. We’d rather a repeat referral than to never get a referral for an individual.
Nottingham City and Nottinghamshire: 0800 066 5356
Sheffield and Rotherham: 0800 066 5358
If people would like to help further they could contact our fundraising team to make a financial donation. They can do this knowing that their money will be used directly for appropriate support as opposed to directly giving to homeless people.
Thirdly and possibly most important, please educate yourselves. Attend speak outs, volunteer, read and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more people know, the better. Please don’t assume every rough sleeper is the same, they’re all individuals and deserve to be treated as such.
To find out more visit: www.frameworkha.org
To help people Off The Streets, donate here.