Homelessness is on the rise – but what is being done to support those sleeping rough?

A garage in Weston where a rough sleeper spent the night

A garage in Weston where a rough sleeper spent the night - Credit: Archant

Homelessness is a national problem which is increasingly spoken about but it can be hard to see work being done behind the scenes to fix the problem.

Mercury reporter, Mellissa Dzinzi, joined Joe Heslop from the YMCA outreach team to do a morning 'welfare walk' around Weston.

The walk involves going around spots where rough sleepers are known to have spent the night -places such as garages, the seafront, churches and doorways.

Once a week two members of the team take on the essential walk, which allows them to speak with the rough sleepers and check on their welfare.

At the break of dawn, on a cold and rainy December morning at 6am, the team of three, including Emma Simmonds, from North Somerset Council, began the walk.

It was not long until they came across rough sleepers, perched in a doorway.

Joe said: "Homelessness is getting worse in the cities and the recent stats have backed that it is increasing.

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"You see that some people have actually been outside all night, it can be harrowing to see. I try to be positive about it because we are responding to the problem and we deal with it. There is hope.

"We know the rough sleepers we are dealing with but it takes time for the individual to reach out to get help. Some people who are on the streets are usually carrying shame, guilt they have because things haven't worked out how they planned.

"As we do the walks, we just check on them to see if they're OK give them coffee to start their day and encourage them to head to Somewhere to Go when it opens."

While he is handing out coffee, Joe also makes them aware of the services available to them and reminds them of any appointments which they may have on the day.

During the walk, we came across six rough sleepers; six too many.

What happens after the welfare walk?

Each location where we found a rough sleeper was noted. This can be passed onto other agencies that work with individuals.

A street committee meeting, which welcomes all the agencies, can share updates on rough sleepers and any other relevant information. This enables the organisations to help manage each individual.

Is homelessness on the rise?

According to statistics released by the Government last month, four people died on the streets of North Somerset in the past year.

Homelessness also rose by a third in the district, which is significantly higher than South Gloucestershire and Sedgemoor.

What help is there for rough sleepers in Weston?

Members of the public can help by volunteering at places such as Somewhere to Go and the Night Assessment Centre, in Waterloo Street.

There is also an app called Streetlink, which enables the public to connect people sleeping rough with the supportive services. The person who raised the alert will receive updates on the app regarding what has happened to the rough sleeper.

There is also a scheme called Street 2 Settled which supports rough sleepers as they settle into accommodation.

Emma said: "We work alongside different agencies who work with the rough sleepers. We trust each other's opinions and we try to maintain the same messages throughout our encounters with them.

"Some people say no to the help but we still do our best to help them and to make sure when they are ready to accept the help we're there for them.

"People may think there's nothing happening behind the scenes but there is so much happening.

"We also have to be mindful of their situation. The welfare walk is another way of making sure people are aware of the support that is available to them.

"It's about having the right level of empathy because people don't want to be pitied."

To access Street Link, visit www.streetlink.org.uk