Reaching out to people sleeping rough in Chester

Members of the forfutures team and our partners at Outside In took part in an outreach project during the first Chester races day of the year to engage people sleeping rough with the support services available.

Outside In is a multi-agency group made up of local voluntary and faith organisations, health professionals, police and the Chester City BID Group, along with representatives from Cheshire West and Chester Council.

The increased outreach presence was part of a bid to raise awareness with the public of the role of forfutures and like-minded partners in the city, and to demonstrate our shared commitment to working together to coordinate the support available to those that might be sleeping rough.

It was also a valuable way to gain as much insight as possible into anyone experiencing homelessness in the city and the issues they face, following forfutures taking over as the Council’s homeless support service provider last month.

Through the project, the team found that of the 26 people they engaged with, most are known to the organisations working in the city, have been living a ‘street lifestyle’ for a long time, with many known to have complex support needs. This is why a focus on outreach work is a key priority for the forfutures team, recognising that people with complex needs and circumstances need support on an individual basis.

When the forfutures outreach team engage with rough sleepers, they support them to plan their own next steps to reflect their aspirations for changing their circumstances, and to access opportunities available to them to improve their current situation.

For individuals that are open and ready to engage, outreach work offers a real opportunity for them to turn their lives around. For example, after a long conversation with a member of our team, one individual agreed to access emergency accommodation and to work with us to understand his needs and aspirations. He explained that, after 10 years of living on the streets and spells in prison, he had recently undergone help with an addiction and felt ready to take the next steps to engage with forfutures and to find employment. Timing was critical to a successful intervention, and he was offered accommodation that night.

Following the Races Day outreach work, six people continued to engage with the forfutures team to make their first steps into leaving the street and receiving support.

Janet Lawton, Strategic Homeless Lead for forfutures, said: “Our aim, together with our partners, was to be proactive and ensure that our teams are visible to the public who may be concerned about those rough sleeping. More importantly it was an opportunity to reach out to those who are without a roof, to better understand the issues they face and to engage with them to access the support available. The support we had from volunteers from several charities in the City was invaluable in being able to offer individuals a variety of support.”

“When forfutures took over the Council’s homeless support services in April, we wanted to refresh the approach to supporting those who are among the most vulnerable in society, with a strong focus on prevention. We are currently supporting over 500 people, with the majority of those receiving support to prevent them from losing their homes.