Changing negative perceptions of rough sleeping and homelessness – guest blog from the Simon Community
Megan Thomson manages the Simon’s Community’s RSVP Street Team service in Glasgow. Here she talks about changing negative perceptions of rough sleeping and homelessness, and how the Simon Community is making a difference to people’s lives.
Simon Community Scotland Street Team are out on the streets of Glasgow 365 days of the year, working with people who are rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping.
Homelessness, simply put, is when someone does not have a home. Many people stay in emergency or supported accommodation, bed and breakfasts, temporary furnished flats or sofa surf with friends or family. All are homeless, but rough sleeping differs. This happens when people do not have the capacity to engage with support services and seek temporary accommodation.
This could happen for a number of reasons – they may not have supportive relationships with friends or family who could help them at this particular time. This can result in people becoming disengaged and feeling that their only option is to sleep on the streets.
Rough sleeping is the most dangerous type of homelessness. People rough sleeping are 13 times more likely to be the victim of violence and their life expectancy can be drastically shorter than the average.
The reality is that the majority of people who are homelessness don’t rough sleep. Not all people who are rough sleeping are begging. Not all people who are begging rough sleep. However, all are incredibly vulnerable and in need of support.
The Simon Community RSVP Street Team is a unique service. We spend our days building relationships with people who are vulnerable and establishing what supports people feel they need. This ranges from finding accommodation to linking people in with health and addiction services. We also help people rebuild the relationships that may have caused them to become homeless in the first place.
The Simon Community is always trying to make a difference and improve people’s life chances. It can take days, weeks or months to get someone to a point where there is enough trust to take up our offer of support. This can be due to many years of trauma, abuse, violence, bad experiences and mistrust of services.
It can be very misleading when people see someone on the street and wonder why nobody is helping. But we are helping, and we are grateful when people contact us when they have concerns about someone rough sleeping. More and more people are saving the Simon Community 24 hour helpline number in their phones: 0800 027 7466, so that they can contact us as soon as they see someone in need of help.
Ending Homelessness Together
In Glasgow, Simon Community work closely with other statutory and voluntary organisations in the city who aim to support those most at risk, due to their current situation. We exhaust all avenues available to get people into safe accommodation and off of the street. Sadly as a last resort, sometimes we need to give someone a sleeping bag. This is only ever a last resort and even when we do this, we make every effort to keep in touch and offer help as soon as possible.
Recently our street team received a call from a woman looking for a sleeping bag – she thought that was all she was entitled to. As a lone female she was at risk from many dangers that come hand in hand with rough sleeping. We helped her get support from the local authority Out Of Hours Emergency Accommodation Services. She was given her own room in a specialist woman’s supported accommodation service, a place of safety. Here she had a comfy bed, new PJs and a hot meal. Most importantly – we started to build a relationship, gain her trust and help her on her journey out of homelessness.
Simon Community Scotland provides accommodation, outreach, resettlement and housing support services. Their frontline street team provide a vital link between some of the most vulnerable people in the city and the services that can support them. If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough in Glasgow, you can call their 24 hour free phone number: 0800 027 7466.
The Scottish Government wants to end rough sleeping and homelessness and ensure everyone has a safe, warm place they can call home. The five year Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan sets out how we are working with local government and third sector partners to prevent homelessness and address people’s needs when homelessness does happen. It is backed by a £50 million Ending Homelessness Together Fund to support change on the ground, so that people get the right help at the right time.