Focusing on health can help people rough sleeping to move away from the streets 

Newcastle City Council has been awarded £713,386 from national government grants to improve the services delivered in the city to help prevent rough sleeping and support those living on the streets into accommodation. 

The Council already commissions over 750 rooms for people at risk of homelessness, in addition to its 45 units of statutory homeless accommodation at Cherry Tree View. These new grants will enable four new projects to be piloted, including two health-focused projects. 

£223,000 has been awarded from Public Health England to carry out a programme of work that will give extra support to people who have multiple and complex needs, specifically in relation to their physical and mental health, and substance misuse. The grant will fund a new Dual Diagnosis Team of two mental health social workers and two dual diagnosis link workers with experience in mental health and addictions. 

The specialist Dual Diagnosis Team will work alongside our accommodation services, working with people to support them to access primary care health services, and enter into and engage with treatment services and be supported with their mental health problems, which may not have a formal diagnosis. There will also be provision for workforce development of the staff currently working in homeless accommodation, enhancing their skills around understanding trauma and the impact of trauma on people and how they respond in particular situations, and how staff can better engage with people when this happens. 

Claire Knox, Newcastle Council’s Service Improvement Lead for Commissioning said: ‘Working in supported accommodation services, and particularly larger hostels, can be challenging, and the staff do a great job; the aim is for the Dual Diagnosis Team to help them better respond to the complex challenges their clients face, which is critical to help end rough sleeping.’ 

Newcastle City Council was also awarded £150,000 from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) Rough Sleeping Initiative to pilot a Housing First project for people who are rough sleeping in Newcastle. 

The underlying principle of Housing First is that people who are homeless and have multiple and complex needs, including substance misuse and mental health problems, are offered their own tenancy, without a requirement to be ready to live independently or engaged in support or treatment services. 

Housing First takes a recovery-focused approach and once someone is settled in their home, sensitively supports them to consider what else they may wish to focus on in their life, for example, their physical and mental health, community and social networks, substance misuse, volunteering or peer mentoring. 

This Housing First pilot will be delivered by Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), who will provide the properties, and tenants will be supported by a multidisciplinary team comprising of a YHN Support & Progression Worker and a Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) Nurse Consultant who will offer specialist support, for example, if a tenant requires support in relation to their mental health or substance misuse. The team will assess peoples’ needs to understand and ensure they are offered the right accommodation and in areas where they feel safe and are able to establish social networks. 

The Housing First team will also be creative in trying to increase engagement with the people they are supporting and give them the opportunity to take part in social activities – for example, if the person used to go fishing, they can get support to join an angling club. Claire added: ‘Good communications and building trust with people rough sleeping is vital to the success of both projects, and the aim throughout is to help people move from a street lifestyle to one that is safer and better for them. Giving people a sense of purpose and belonging can show them that they have the capacity to change and live a better life. This kind of support will show them that they are valued, that there is another way to live, and that they deserve that. 

‘There are lots being done to help us to realise the ambition of the Street Zero partnership to end rough sleeping in Newcastle by 2022, and whilst we continue to strengthen the existing support, this additional funding received gives us an excellent opportunity to test the effectiveness of working in new and multidisciplinary ways to benefit some of the most vulnerable people in Newcastle.’