StreetLink community spotlight - Aneira

Aneira is a senior shift leader at StreetLink. Here she explains what happens when an alert comes in and shares her best and most difficult moments helping to support people sleeping rough.

What does your role at StreetLink involve?

I lead the phone line and nightshift teams that receive calls and manage the digital alerts about and from people sleeping rough, passing these on to the independent local outreach teams who go out to offer support. I also provide training and support for our volunteers.

Why did you join the charity?

I wanted to have a hands-on role in helping to end homelessness. My job is intense, but it’s also so rewarding. The team are there 24/7 for people facing an incredibly difficult situation and are able to provide practical information as well as connecting them to local services that can help.

What does a typical shift look like?

If I’m on the early shift, I’ll start at 7am with a handover from the hardworking night team.

I’ll spend some time answering the phones to people sleeping rough and members of the public, submitting their alerts and explaining what further support may be available, directing people to appropriate local homeless services and support lines.

I’ll also do a stint managing the alerts received through our website and app. Each London alert is checked to ensure it contains specific and accurate information to enable the outreach team to find the person, which can include following up with the public to obtain extra details on the location of the individual. This makes outreach shifts more effective, with more people able to be located.

We also follow up with outreach teams to chase feedback on alert outcomes so that members of the public can be updated on the action taken.

Could you share your best moment working for StreetLink?

I’m not sure there is just one, but I enjoy the moments when I’m speaking to a person who has been sleeping rough and they realise that I’m going to be able to do something that will make a difference to their situation.

And one of your more challenging moments?

I recently spoke to a gentleman who was on the streets having lost his job and his home as a result of the pandemic and was understandably distressed. It was a tough call, but fortunately I felt I was able to provide some helpful information, and put through an alert that should help this man to be supported off the streets.

Periods of severe weather are challenging as well, as we receive a high number of alerts and supporting people in from the cold could be a matter of life or death. Councils and services do provide emergency support in severe weather though and at StreetLink, we always ask people to call 999 in a medical emergency.

What changes have you seen during the Covid-19 pandemic

During the pandemic, calls from self-referrers have shot up, including those from people new to sleeping rough.

At StreetLink, remote working has meant we have had to reduce the number of volunteers involved and rely more heavily on our small staff team to answer all of the calls and manage the digital alerts.

Why is the service important in your opinion?

StreetLink has a really important role to play. It acts as the first port of call to start people’s journey off the streets. However, it is important that people understand that it is not an emergency service or an accommodation provider. It is the link between people sleeping rough and the local services that can help them.