Female long-term rough sleeper project success

A pan-London pilot project, led by Ms Tristy Robinson from the CNWL Joint Homelessness Team, found that female long-term rough sleepers - called entrenched rough sleepers - need more wide-reaching support. By the end of the pilot, 33 of the 52 women were offered housing.

The project team worked with 52 female rough sleepers with complex needs to identify their characteristics and the challenges to working with them. They found that this group tend to wander between boroughs, making it difficult to establish local connections and continuity of care.

Tristy Robinson, said: “Female entrenched rough sleepers tend to keep themselves hidden and unwilling to engage, meaning services have very little information about them. These women often go by a number of different names too.

“We need to work across boroughs to offer interventions that help them move off the streets.”

The pilot focused on long-term rough sleepers, with 42 out of the project’s 52 clients having records going back two years or more.

The team found that 85% of the women had a mental health diagnosis or a suspected diagnosis and that most were over 40 years old.

Additionally they found that 70% of the women were known to more than one borough, with three known to more than five boroughs.

As well as providing more information about the needs and challenges of working with this particular group, the project delivered notable outcomes:

• Joint work with many different all-London services meant written histories were collected for them all. This provided valuable insight for helping each person rather than one size fits all.
• 100% of the women with a connection to Westminster were given a housing offer.
• 90% of the women without a Westminster connection were referred into services through the project’s liaison and partnership work with local homeless and mental health services.
• By the end of the project, 33 women in the group were no longer street homeless.
Tristy, said: “This project highlights best practice for the future in working with people in this position. Lack of information about these women should not become a barrier to finding; housing and support; teams should work to improve the quality of information available.

“Proactive, innovative solutions are required for working with these women, with an emphasis on training and joint working amongst services. Ideally we would like to see a dedicated outreach or accommodation provision, given their unique needs and vulnerability.”

Claire Murdoch, CNWL Chief Executive, said, “Well done to this team – this is fabulous work. The public often don’t understand how women like this remain homeless. What this project shows is that knowing the person leads onto help for them. This project fills me with pride and hope for others. It works.”

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