The weather is getting colder – which makes life even more difficult for people who are homeless. Ryedale District Council’s Ellen Jackson specialises in working with people who have mental health issues, and also those who are rough sleeping. Here she gives an insight into her daily work and how RDC is helping Ryedale’s “hidden homeless”.
“My job is Housing Pathway Coordinator for mental health and rough sleeping. People sometimes think that we don’t have a problem with rough sleepers in Ryedale because we don’t have people sleeping in shop doorways.
“The truth is we do have people who are struggling with homelessness in Ryedale, but it’s hidden. There are people sleeping out in cars, which is hard to spot because we are such a rural area. And there are “sofa surfers” – people who don’t have a place of their own, and who are dependent on other people giving them a sofa for the night. It can be really hard to live that way for any length of time. There’s no security.
“Because we have “hidden homelessness” we have to think outside the box to identify people who are vulnerable and need our help.
“For example, we’re working with the Forestry Commission so they can look out for people who are sleeping out in their cars in the forests. We’ve linked up with them so they know how to report incidents to us. Then we can take action.
“Often people who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, have health issues as well, so we are building strong links with the doctors’ surgeries and health services across Ryedale. That way, if we make contact with a rough sleeper, we can make sure they get a full service that meets all their needs. We want to help people into suitable accommodation, but it isn’t just about housing. People need someone who can guide them through the different types of help that they need, and “join the dots” between the different services.
“To give you an example, we recently received a call from a lady who had spotted a young man who was obviously in distress. She called it in and we went out to search for him. We brought him up to the Council offices at Ryedale House, so we could work out a solution that would be right for him. It’s all about what that individual needs, and we take that into account when we do an assessment.
“In this case, the young man was homeless and he was really struggling with money. He had problems with anxiety and depression, and he wasn’t in a good way. Under our “no second night out” offer, we were able to find a place in a local bed-and-breakfast immediately, so he got a warm bed for the night, while we arranged a longer-term place for him in supported accommodation. Now that he has somewhere safe to stay, we can work with him to make sure he gets to the doctor, and receives help with his Universal Credit. We needed to work really fast to get everything sorted out, so you do feel that pressure, but we were proud to have helped that person.
“Sometimes members of the public see someone who they think might be homeless and sleeping rough and they want to help, but they’re not sure what to do. My advice is to contact StreetLink through their website, or their mobile App. You can give details about the rough sleeper’s location and general appearance, and StreetLink will get in touch with us so we can find that person and connect them to the support they need. StreetLink will also let you know what happened about your report, if you’d like them too.
“If you are sofa-surfing, or at risk of becoming homeless, you can drop in to one of our homelessness prevention sessions. The advisers are very friendly. They don’t judge people – they are there to help. For us, if we can stop someone sleeping out in the cold and wet, and help them get their life back on track, that’s a success.”
Useful information related to this blog:
Visit StreetLink for more details, including how to download the StreetLink App.
For help and advice on housing matters, you can come to a drop-in session:
Tuesday: 10am-12.30pm, Ryedale House, Old Malton Rd, Malton
Tuesday: 1.30pm-3pm, Pickering Library, The Ropery, Pickering
Thursday: 10am-12.30pm, Ryedale House, Old Malton Road, Malton