Prevention is key to success for rough sleeping project

The Rough Sleeper Prevention Project aims to intervene before someone finds themselves rough sleeping (file photo)
The Rough Sleeper Prevention Project aims to intervene before someone finds themselves rough sleeping (file photo)

There are many organisations and charities in Hastings 
and Rother that help people once they find themselves 
on the streets – but there are few which dedicate their efforts to making sure these people don’t become homeless in the first place.

The Rough Sleeper Prevention Project (RSPP) does exactly this.

It identifies people who are insecurely housed or on the cusp of homelessness and works with them to stabilise their situation.

The two-year pilot project is funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and delivered locally by Home Works. It launched in April 2017 and will run until March 31, 2019.

Jayney Gascoigne, operations manager at Home Works who manages the project, said: “The project is based on the principle of ‘no first night out’ and ‘no second night out’. We work with people at risk of becoming homeless, such as people who are insecurely housed or sofa surfing, or those who may have recently lost their job or experienced the breakdown of a relationship.

“We identify people on the cusp of homelessness and try to stop them from becoming entrenched rough sleepers, because once they find themselves on the street, it’s harder for them to get back on their feet.

“We work intensively with clients for six weeks. We help them get their finances straight, help them find somewhere to live, help them register with a GP – whatever it is they need. We go to appointments with them, perhaps to meet a potential landlord. Or if the risk of homelessness is because of a relationship breakdown, we may offer some mediation.

“After the six weeks of intensive help, we check back in with the client after three months and six months to see how they’re doing. We have seen great success in the first year – 88 per cent of people we helped were not rough sleeping six months after engaging with the service.”

Clients are referred to the RSPP via a number of sources, such as the council, the job centre or the probation service. In the first year of the project, 97 per cent of people were supported to engage with community services, 84 per cent were encouraged to make contact with friends and family, and 59 per cent were helped to engage with a GP or healthcare service.

The project is currently on a two-year pilot to see how successful it is, and whether there is a need for it in the area. Jayney added: “The project is going to run for two years for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to see if it is needed, and to see whether it is a good investment – whether it is helping to save money by helping people stay away from A&E, for example.

“There is a demand in East Sussex, particularly in Hastings – there are always more people to help.

“People don’t always realise quite how many there are in need, because those we deal with are the hidden homeless.

“The help we provide is very holistic, we look at the whole situation whether it be housing, finances or health, and I think that’s important.”

The RSPP is hoping to receive a share of the £664,000 grant announced for Hastings and Eastbourne last week by the MHCLG, in a bid to reduce the number of rough sleepers.

For more information on the project, call 01424 858 344 or visit www.southdown.org.