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Jo Turner, National Practice Development Project Manager at Homeless Link, reflects on our recent Rough Sleeping Conference and outlines the free resources which have been developed to support rough sleeping outreach teams.

Rough sleeping in England is rising. The rough sleeping snapshot figures in Autumn 2023 showed a 27% rise in people sleeping rough compared to 2022. Despite the increasing efforts of homelessness services, it is clear that every arm of government must now work together in a cross-government approach to play their part in ending homelessness.

At Homeless Link’s recent rough sleeping conference, it was inspiring to see organisations from across England come together to show their passion and drive for ending homelessness. From learning about innovative ways organisations are supporting people experiencing multiple disadvantage, to holistic harm reduction approaches and gender-informed outreach, the conference showcased incredible practice which is happening within the sector, and the real need for targeted, bespoke support.

One of the many things this year’s rough sleeping conference highlighted is that no area of England is immune from the rise of rough sleeping. Homelessness and rough sleeping are growing problems in rural communities, which suffer an increased burden due to a lack of support services, and the often infrequent, unreliable and expensive public transport to reach those that do exist. This presents unique challenges to outreach teams that often have to cover significant areas and support people who are bedding down in remote or difficult to reach locations.

In January, we launched our principles for rough sleeping outreach services, to be used by new and existing outreach services to review policies and practices, and ultimately improve support and provide consistency for people who are sleeping rough. Alongside these principles, we have now developed outreach guidance detailing how to put these principles into practice, with suggestions for different approaches based on rural/urban settings, and good practice case studies.

With the pressures put on outreach teams, and with high staff turnovers, we know what finding time and money for training can be a challenge. This is why we have created free bitesize E-Learnings as an accessible way for new and existing staff to learn the essential elements of successful rough sleeping outreach practice. The e-learning module contains four roughly 9-minute videos on how to put the various elements of the principles for rough sleeping outreach into practice, including; timely, purposeful and barrier-free contact and support, active engagement in person-centred support and advocacy, being trauma-informed and working in partnership with a network of organisations, and, the safety, well-being and development of outreach workers.

Each video concludes with individual and team activities and suggested actions to embed the learning. There are also accompanying transcripts containing links to the additional free resources and e-learning opportunities available on Homeless Link’s Knowledge Hub and sector organisations mentioned in the videos.

We encourage all rough sleeping outreach services to view and share these resources. If you would like to provide any feedback or suggestions for further resources, please email joanna.turner@homelesslink.org.uk

Watch our free Outreach Essentials E-Learning Download our outreach guidance

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Joanna Turner

National Practice Development Project Manager