The Society of St James (SSJ) is a charitable homelessness organisation offering support and housing to those within Hampshire. SSJ secured funding from Homeless Link’s Ending Women’s Homelessness Fund and commenced the Horizon Project in November 2019.
The funding is for a 16 month period to improve accessibility, capacity and outcomes for women accessing all services within SSJ. This exciting project has enabled the Society of St James to embed gender- and trauma-informed practice within all services, thus enabling staff to understand the complex and diverse needs of women and support women who are disadvantaged across all of our projects.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, all those who were homeless in Portsmouth, regardless of gender, were assessed by Portsmouth City Council (PCC) and the SSJ Homeless Day Service and housed temporarily within two hotels under the ‘Everybody In’ initiative from the end of March until mid-September.
The first hotel, IBIS Fratton (Ibis Blue), comprised of 120 individual rooms, which accommodated clients experiencing homelessness who were assessed as having high complex support needs. The second hotel, IBIS Winston Churchill (Ibis Red), comprised of an additional 110 rooms housing homeless clients who were assessed as having lower support needs.
During the first six months of the pandemic and the ‘Everybody In’ initiative, a total of 444 people experiencing homelessness, were housed within the hotels. Of those, 39 women were temporarily accommodated in Ibis Red and 24 women in Ibis Blue.
At the end of August, 25 of the women who were housed in Ibis Red were transferred to Ibis Blue, as PCC had started to secure alternative accommodation in either a supported housing network, which offered clients floating support, or in a privately rented room.
Those women who had no recourse to public funds were placed at the Ibis Blue when the Ibis Red returned to the Accor franchise and started to operate as a hotel again. Staff worked extremely hard to try and establish eligibility for the ‘right to remain’ for those who had NRPF, and attempted to gain either a settled or pre-settled status by contacting Embassies and Consulates.
The Homeless Day Service team developed links and formed effective working relationships with other services such as The Red Cross and Friends without Borders, in order to develop a network of support for those clients where the right to remain and therefore eligibility would not be met. Clients were supported and empowered to talk directly to the Red Cross organisation and also Friends without Borders charity in order to discuss and secure accommodation, food parcels, solicitor advice, translation services and more.
The relationships built between these humanitarian aid charities proved to be invaluable. The Red Cross managed to secure accommodation for one particular female who was pregnant and rehoused both her and her partner as well as housing other vulnerable clients within the homeless pathway.
The SSJ team work in collaboration with a variety of statutory and non-statutory services in order to provide holistic support to clients experiencing homelessness. These services include; a Homeless Health Care Team comprising of a GP, Mental Health nurse, psychologist, a modern matron and homeless health care navigators. Navigators assist with making appointments for clients and support them to engage with the health care team.
Links were also developed with The Smoking Cessation Service, whereby staff from this service offered twice weekly support sessions. Clients who wished to reduce or stop smoking were provided with free vapes, vape liquids and weekly consultations to any client who was interested in reducing the risks related to smoking.
Our #EveryoneInForGood Member Blog Series highlights the positive innovation and practice of frontline homelessness services during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting successful outcomes for the people they support. It advocates for the important role of Homeless Link’s members in the next phase of the response, while inspiring and motivating others.