In 1998 Exeter’s had a large rough sleeping population; 27 Rough sleepers were found on an official street count. In the following 4 years the city successfully managed to reduce this number by 65%. Numbers remained stable until 2007 / 08 when numbers rose to 15, however due to focussing agencies in the city on reducing rough sleeping the spring count returned a number of 5 individuals bedded down.
Outreach services cannot thrive in isolation; rather they need to be part of an integrated approach to working with vulnerable adults with a range of complex needs. In Exeter a multi disciplinary model for delivery outreach services was devised. In 2002 the Street Homeless Outreach Team (SHOT) was established. Employees from both Statutory and voluntary agencies make up the SHOT team; Devon PCT, EDP Drug and Alcohol Services, Carr – Gomm and The Community Mental Health Team. Funding comes from Exeter City Council Devon DAAT, Devon Partnership Trust, Exeter City Council, Supporting People and Devon PCT. The manager is employed by Devon PCT and over the years this role has developed in to a more strategic role. This has ensured that the needs of rough sleepers and making a range of services accessible to them is high on the agenda of a range of steering groups across the city and county.
The SHOT team have been effective at engaging with rough sleepers using a client centred yet assertive approach. Areas of good practice are as follows:
• SHOT work with Rough sleepers who are excluded from other services and work with clients without time constraints.
• SHOT provide regular street based contact and drop ins at other services such as The Big Issue and local day centre
• Client centred service; due to the different disciplines within the team SHOT are able to offer a holistic service including triage for drug treatment and Harm Reduction for both drugs and alcohol. The Social Worker within the team has capacity to hold a caseload of clients with a range of mental health problems
• The SHOT team are based dedicated surgery for people who are homeless and vulnerably housed
• SHOT is hosted by Devon PCT and sits within public health. The team has a strong health focus, working to reduce health inequalities, the clients tend to view primary health services as neutral so engage well with the team.
• SHOT works closely with the main floating support provider in the city whose workers regularly take part in outreach sessions and run drop ins to complete referrals.
• SHOT and the hostels have devised pre interviews for beds and preliminary action plans for the client to work to (with Support),This can help the client resolve any issues that are acting as a barrier to their accommodation and ensure that both the client and hostels expectations are realistic.
• SHOT have worked with local hostels to offer Night Chairs and taster stays for those who are initially reluctant to access hostel accommodation.
• SHOT promote Multi - Agency working by coordinating meetings to focus on individual highly complex rough sleepers and coordinating joint support plans.
• SHOT either facilitate or provide training to both Voluntary and Statutory Agencies in the city in order to share best practice and enhance skills of those working with rough sleepers and other homeless people.
Relocation Policy -The city has a Relocation Policy signed up to by all agencies.
Access to Accommodation - SHOT have sole referral rights into both High Support Hostels and the Dispersed Hostel.
‘Housing First’ Model – working with the Bridge Project (a dispersal hostel), which was created to provide high support accommodation for those rough sleepers for whom hostel accommodation was not appropriate . This project has proved very successful in assisting long-term rough sleepers and into permanent accommodation via the Local Authority.
Working closely with the Local Authority – the voluntary and statutory organisations are working in partnership to provide very short term accommodation to either prevent the need to rough sleep or reduce the time a person needs to spend on the street. Using council 1 bed flats, people are accommodated whilst referrals for other accommodation go through or they are reconnected back to an area where they have a local connection.
Prison Release -The city council fund a worker from the day centre to be based at HMP Exeter working with prisoners, helping them to secure accommodation on release both in and out of Exeter. This has dramatically reduced the number of prisoners being released NFA and subsequently helped to keep rough sleeper numbers low. A pilot is about to start working with prisoners released from HMP Exeter without a licence (AUR).
Hospital Discharge - SHOT liaise closely with the Hospital an are trialling a discharge procedure with the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, which if successful will be rolled out throughout Devon.
Move on accommodation - Exeter City Council have maximised move on from the hostels via its Choice based lettings scheme. A member of the SHOT Team sits on the Move on Panel which looks at allocating social housing to people coming through supported housing. Exeter Move on Panel (EMP) is now including access to the private rented sector working in partnership with the Smartmove scheme.
County wide working - SHOT initiated a county wide forum for street based services. This forum meets quarterly and aims to share best practice and look at county wide initiatives such as a county wide street needs audit which we are hoping to do in spring 2010