I’m proud to have joined Colchester Borough Homes as its first Early Response Rough Sleeper Coordinator in October 2017.
It’s a role unique to the region made possible by a successful bid from Colchester Borough Council to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which reflects the council’s ambition to tackle rough sleeping in a supportive and sustainable way.
I have worked in support and housing for the last 20 years from volunteering at drop in centres to working in Mental Health Crisis teams and drug & alcohol services. For the last 14 years I have worked almost exclusively for Housing Associations, managing a variety of projects working with entrenched rough sleepers, a Women only hostel and Young Person supported housing. I have learnt that a joined-up approach to housing and support needs is the only way to sustain long term results.
There are two key areas to my role – I spend time out and about in Colchester, meeting people from partner agencies and the rough sleeping community to build trust and understanding. Rough Sleepers are often vulnerable people with complex needs, including poor mental health and drug and alcohol addiction. By meeting and talking to rough sleepers I am able to co-ordinate their pathway into support and accommodation.
I believe everyone has the right to suitable, appropriate accommodation and I’m pleased to have played a key role in successfully housing over twenty rough sleepers and people threatened with homelessness.
I am also responsible for coordinating the many organisations in the area involved in tackling rough sleeping. For instance, I am the chair for Colchester Homelessness Agencies Service User Panel (CHASUP) - a lively forum of agencies that supports entrenched rough sleepers to help them into accommodation. I'm particularly proud of setting up, in partnership with Homeless link, the Communities of Practice forum which brings together all homelessness and support services in Colchester. I like having the ability to affect change across the sector by working with organisations to ensure a joined-up approach to addressing homelessness.
My role is also helping to attract further external funding - I contributed towards Colchester Borough Council’s successful funding bid of over £192,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This will give us the means to pilot a Housing First project, provide extra provision at Colchester Night Shelter and employ two outreach workers. It’s heartening to see the good progress being made to tackle rough sleeping and I’m looking forward to boosting my team with the new outreach workers which we’ll be looking to recruit very soon.
If anyone sees someone sleeping rough and wants to help, the first step I recommend is to report it through StreetLink. It's available across England and Wales and sends a report to the local authority to action. It’s easy to use and just a few minutes can help turn someone’s life around. Visit www.streetlink.org.uk, download the free mobile app for Apple and Android, or call 0300 500 0914.