What to do if you’re worried about a rough sleeper?

The immense rise in homeless people in Birmingham is no doubt as a result of government policy on cuts to essential services, mental health support, charity support and cuts to local councils, as well as a housing crisis and tougher stance on those relying on benefits. The majority of people we have spoken to sleeping rough in Birmingham are local born and bred West Midlanders, contrary to popular misconceptions.

We reported on the best ways in which to help support the homeless and rough sleepers in Birmingham here. Money is not always the best option and buying food and drink is only a temporary fix and also allows people more money to spend on addictions such as alchohol and drugs. We covered the plight of many rough sleepers in this article here just a few months ago. What was particularly alarming is the huge rise in women begging and sleeping rough, or people with mental health conditions who are extremely vulnerable.

As a result of that article we had a reply from the mayor of The West MIdlands Andy Street (well, his p.a.) who tells us Andy read the article and hopes to try and bring together the various charities to work more coherently. After emailing all of the main national political leaders we had just one reply from the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas who read the article and was looking into ways to bring about change. One other outcome of this was a local lady contacting us who is searching for her sister who has poor mental health and has been missing for some years, last seen sleeping rough in Birmingham. This person is vulnerable and has simply vanished, these are the people who we see sleeping in doorways, on streets, begging, and battling not only with their health problems but also, depression, addiction and just trying to survive the hardships and dangers of sleeping rough.

What To Do If You’re Worried About Someone Sleeping Rough?

We previoulsy gave the advice to use the Street Link number. This is no longer the best advice, from past experience, no one will return your call and there is no way of knowing if people are attended to. Street Link was set up partially by the government.

If you find someone unconcious – We were told by a city centre police officer, if the person your are concerned about is not stirring and you are sure they are not sleeping, it is best to call an abulance and have them checked over, better to be safe than sorry.

If you find someone who is vulnerable and needs a bed for the night Call the Rough Sleeper Outreach Team on 07483981912. This is a small team of people who have access to a mini bus and will try to attend the person you are concerned about. Even if they cannot find a room for the night they will assess the persons needs and give best advice. This number operates from 7am – 11pm Monday to Friday and Sunday 8am to 3pm.

Other Useful Contact Information

Birmingham Gateway Official page from BCC website:

This includes all Providers that citizens and / or professionals can refer into directly for refuge spaces, hostel spaces for single homeless citizens and ex-Offenders and floating support.  This service only supports people who are on benefits.  Citizens who require homeless support who are employed full time and homeless families will need to approach the Housing Options Team (details below).

Please note, the floating support available from Gateway Providers is for maintaining tenancies and preventing homelessness situations.  Other types of support will need to be sought from other departments / organisations.

www.birmingham.gov.uk/housing/support_services

St Basils Contact details:

Supports young people aged 16-25 who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  Have supported accommodation schemes that help young people regain the stability they need to re-build lives, gain skills, training, employment and move on.  Aim to break the ‘cycle of homelessness’

Tel:  0300 303 0099

Emergency out of hours:

16-17 years call: 0121 675 4806

18+ years call: 0121 303 2296

SIFA Emergency Beds Team:

Have a small number of emergency beds available each day for a 1 night stay only.

Tel:  07483 981912

Birmingham City Council Housing Options Team:

Based at Newtown Neighbourhood Office they provide advice and support for homelessness, housing advice, housing options, housing debt and ALL housing applications.

Tel:  0121 303 7410

Hostels:

Midland Heart’s Zambesi hostel in Sparkbrook has recently started accepting homeless citizens who have dogs / pets in an attempt to help them get off the street.

Zambesi Tel:  0121 766 7645

It is also worth knowing that the hostels used by Gateway Providers are not direct access.  Citizens making enquiries will need to undergo an assessment by the hostel to obtain their background details.  If this is all OK they will be invited to the hostel for an interview where they will have to provide proof of their ID and benefits. Citizens will need to make their own way to the hostels and depending on their background they may not be suitable for some of the accommodation due to the hostel’s location to schools/children’s services etc.  Providers will also weigh up the ‘balance’ of the hostel at the time of the referral.  If they have too many people with similar traits or behaviours including mental health conditions, challenging behaviours, criminal behaviours etc they may not be able to offer spaces to new enquiries.

As far as we are aware, there is no dedicated council operated team who regularly check on the state or safety of people sleeping rough. It is only through the hard work of volunteers and charities that people get the support they do on the street.

StreetLink Update 24th August 2017

As a result of this article, we have been contacted by StreetLink.

They have stated that they appreciate their phoneline has become very busy and therefore wanted to provide an update on where they are with the service, in case it is helpful for Grapevine readers.

Over the past 12 months, StreetLink have been asking the public to use the StreetLink website and app where possible, as the phoneline is busy, and the digital channels allow them to process the referrals more efficiently and ultimately get support to people sooner. All referrals are passed directly to Midland Heart who StreetLink claim will action them by going out to make contact with people within 24 hours.

There is also the option when making a referral to request feedback on the outcome, and StreetLink make every effort to send an email with this information within ten working days.

They are currently redeveloping the website and app to improve the service and make the process more user friendly, as well as recruiting more volunteers to support the phoneline.

You can use StreetLink here: www.streetlink.org.uk

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