Outreach team hits the streets to help tackle rough sleeping

14 Jan 2020 10:35
Published by: Daniel Almond


AN outreach team which is dedicated to helping people on the streets is making a difference in Rochdale as the winter weather starts to bite.


Alison Harrison and Walter Mahon head out at all times of night and day to actively find people who are sleeping rough and get them into beds. The dedicated duo have already made vital inroads since the service was launched in July this year, which is proving crucial as the cold weather hits.


As well as getting people into beds for the night, the team has got 12 people into longer term accommodation, arranged for 11 people to get medical treatment and helped 16 people access benefits and open bank accounts. Seven people have also been referred to alcohol and drug treatment services.


Alongside their efforts to try to get people into beds immediately, the service has an even more crucial role to support the most hard to reach members of the homeless community and help remove barriers which have stopped them getting into long term accommodation.

Once contact has been made with someone on the streets, Alison and Walter will get them into a bed and deal with immediate needs like medical care. They will then offer one to one support and act as their personal advocate, as they often find it difficult to navigate the system.


Rob Rowe, who manages the outreach team, said: “Building a life away from the streets takes an awful lot of time and even persuading people to come into accommodation for one night can be difficult. These people may have had bad experiences in hostels and some are so used to being on the streets that they really struggle with being in any kind of accommodation.


“Once we’ve made initial contact, we build up that relationship over months and help with all the barriers that stop them getting into housing, be it debt, a criminal record or anything else.”


Around five people are estimated to be sleeping rough in the borough of Rochdale.


Both Alison and Walter work across the whole borough and use intelligence they gather to target people who are most vulnerable, including those who base themselves in more isolated areas. As the wintry weather continues, the number of beds available across the borough has increased, as part of the council’s cold weather protocol.


Cllr Linda Robinson, assistant to the cabinet member for planning development and housing at Rochdale Borough Council and chair of the Rochdale Borough Homelessness Forum, said: “We already have a number of services in place to support people on the streets, but a lot of our work concentrates on supporting people who report to us. Now we have this team, we have more scope to go out and proactively engage with people.


“This service will get to the hardest to reach people, who need the intensive one to one support that this team offers. Alison and Walter are doing a cracking job and I’m really proud to have them here. I would also like to thank the many people in our borough who volunteer to help the homeless. Their support really is invaluable.”


Residents who see someone on the streets that they are concerned about should contact the team on: 0300 303 8548.


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