The purpose of reconnection is to support rough sleepers, particularly those who are new to rough sleeping, to return in a planned way to an area where they have accommodation, support networks or another type of connection. Used in isolation, reconnections will not be sufficient to tackle rough sleeping. However, when developed as part of a local authority’s overall approach to tackling rough sleeping and homelessness it can be extremely effective in ensuring that people do not remain in insecure housing or on the streets.
Effective outreach and reconnection work can prevent people from becoming entrenched rough sleepers, and enable them to re-establish contact with family and friends. It will not be appropriate to apply reconnections policies to every rough sleeper or single homeless person with out-of-area connections - in particular, where a local housing authority has accepted a duty to a rough sleeper or single homeless person.
Reconnecting rough sleepers to their home area works best where the local housing authority and their voluntary sector partners develop a robust and multi agency policy, which sets out roles and responsibilities to an agreed framework. The Good Practice Notes on Developing Reconnection Policies for Rough Sleepers is designed to support local authorities and their partners.
Homeless Link has also developed a reconnection portal; this is a bank of resources for local authorities and other agencies involved in reconnecting rough sleepers to their home areas. It includes information on what reconnection is, good practice in how to do it well, template documents to support the process, and a search facility to help locate services in those home areas. It also features case studies from people who have been through the reconnection process. Visit the reconnection portal here.
Some areas have a formal reconnections protocol and others mention it in their homelessness strategy. There are however a number that do not have any formal protocol, but will reconnect people on an informal case-by-case basis.
The main principles of a reconnection policy are that it should be:
Outcomes for a local policy should include:
Examples of reconnection protocols from around the country:
The London Reconnection Protocol sets out a pan-London, cross borough framework to facilitate the rapid linking back of such newly homeless rough sleepers to services in their home area, so limiting their experience of social dislocation and promoting their rapid re-establishment in stable accommodation.
Bournemouth have a comprehensive reconnection protocol. The underpinning methodology behind this protocol is to ensure that services are prioritised in the best way. The reconnections protocol aims to reconnect vulnerable homeless people, including rough sleepers in a planned way to areas where they have accommodation, support networks or some other connection in order to provide people with the best chance for moving away from a street lifestyle to a more settled life. The protocol aims to reduce the number of people sleeping rough in Bournemouth.
For people who do not have a local connection, there is a maximum stay of 5 working days at a designated hostel. It is during this time the reconnection work will take place and this work will be carried out by the Outreach Street Services Team. The 5 days runs continuously from the first day of stay. Repeat stays will not be possible at a later date.
The Outreach Street Services Team will actively work with people who do not have a local connection to reconnect them. Travel expenses can be provided and staff can help make travel arrangements. Staff will contact the relevant Local Authority to make sure that accommodation is set up for people when they return.
Bristol City Council’s reconnections policy is intended to provide rough sleepers with support to ‘reconnect’ with housing and support in areas outside Bristol, where they have proven support and social networks and to generate data about why rough sleepers leave areas where they have a local connection.
Rough sleepers with no connection to another area are provided with access to a full range of homelessness and related services in the city. Those that have an identifiable area, but refuse reconnection, are provided with a limited range of services, including accommodation in hostels and access to the housing register. However, they will not have access to Registered Social Landlord (RSL) accommodation and support, and access to some other local services. Exceptions to this can be made where there is a clear benefit to the person to live in Bristol, rather than where she or he has a proven social network. There is also a clear appeals process in case of disputes.
Reconnection should be included as part of the offer to people who are not eligible for benefits and are rough sleeping and not in employment. For information on reconnecting non-UK nationals please go to our pages that outlined the support available for homeless migrants. Thames Reach has produced Routes Home, a web-based information and resource tool designed to assist local authorities and the voluntary sector support people from Central and Eastern Europe reconnect to their home country.