StreetLink explains what happens after you send an alert about someone sleeping rough, and why it may take some time to change the individual’s situation.
How to support a person sleeping rough during the day
Awareness around how to help people who are sleeping rough is increasing, but it can still be hard to know what to do. Should you stop for a chat, buy that cup of tea, donate to a local service?
When you see someone sleeping rough during the night, the best course of action is to send an alert to StreetLink to connect that person to local support services, but does the same apply for someone you come across during the day? While it is still possible to submit a daytime Streetlink alert, this is not usually the best option for the person.
The outreach teams that StreetLink partners with work overnight and in the very early hours to make contact with people where they are sleeping. As our experience shows that people move around and are unlikely to sleep in the same place you saw them during the day, this means that the team may not be able to find them to offer support. This is no good for the individual concerned, and takes up some of the time the support workers have to assist others.
Added to this, because of how local outreach teams are set up and funded, some don’t go out every night, so the person that you send an alert about may be waiting for help - until nightfall or for several days - when they could be seeking more immediate support elsewhere.
Signposting to services
Instead of sending an alert in the day, you might want to signpost people in need of support to a nearby homelessness day centre, where they can receive more timely assistance. These walk-in centres address basic needs including food and showers and offer advice and support on issues such as money management, health and substance use and employment and training. When they do not offer these services themselves, they are often able to refer people on.
You can search for local day centres directly using the Homeless England directory, or you can access information on these services via StreetLink, once it identifies that you are making a daytime alert.
Sometimes, people who are new to sleeping rough do not realise that their local council has a duty to offer some support, and so it is always worth asking them whether they have been to visit their council’s housing office.
If the person you have seen appears to be in need of urgent medical attention, you should call an ambulance or speak to the NHS’ 111 service, to get advice on what to do.
Daytime street activity
During the day, there is also the issue of distinguishing between someone who is sleeping rough and someone who is engaging in other street activity – for example, a person who is begging but may have a place to sleep. This is not to say that these people do not need support, but it may be different from what the StreetLink service and homelessness outreach teams can offer.
Of course it can be difficult to tell, but someone who is sleeping rough is likely to have bedding or bags of belongings with them, and the site where they are sleeping will often be more hidden away or sheltered.
Ultimately, it’s all about connecting people to the most appropriate service as swiftly as possible, so they can get the support they need. The alerts you send to StreetLink are invaluable for ensuring that services are aware of people sleeping rough in their area, but it is worth bearing in mind that – during the day at least – an alternative form of support may be preferable.
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Louise is the communications manager at Homeless Link.
0207 840 4427