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Mental health team supported more than 1,000 people facing homelessness

Mental Health Team

A specialist team of mental health professionals helped more than 1,000 people who were rough sleeping or in temporary accommodation in 2023.

Published: 26/01/2024

The Mental Health Navigators from the Rough Sleeper Initiative (RSI) have seen a rise in the number of people needing help, including working professionals, as a result of the cost of living.

The RSI operates in Braintree, Epping Forest, Basildon, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Maldon districts.

It is a partnership service involving Peabody and Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) working with the district councils, Essex County Council, and multiple local charities and organisations. The service in Braintree and Epping Forest is funded by the Rough Sleeping Initiative and the service in Basildon, Brentwood, Chelmsford, and Maldon is funded by the Changing Futures programme.

Mental Health Navigators from EPUT make sure rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation receive support for their mental and physical health needs.

They carry out mental health assessments, arrange health care checks, help people register with local GPs, and issue foodbank vouchers.

They also connect people to services that can support them with housing, benefits, food and clothing, education, and work.

The people they help usually find it difficult to engage with services because they are marginalised and vulnerable. This can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing.

Research by Northumbria University for Oasis Community Housing found that 94% of people facing homelessness have suffered trauma, such as domestic abuse, bereavement, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and relationship breakdowns. These experiences are often a direct trigger for homelessness, which in itself is also a traumatic event.

Tim Canny, RSI Mental Health Navigator for Basildon and Brentwood, said: “We see people in libraries, parks, community cafes like the Happy Hub in Basildon, and public spaces – wherever people feel comfortable and more at ease.

“We have close relationships with the outreach teams from Peabody and CHESS Homeless.

“Peabody have also employed a peer support worker who has lived experience of homelessness, which has really helped the service understand the impact trauma has on people and how we can best support them.”

The EPUT team estimate that they supported more than 1,160 people in 2023. They work closely with a wide variety of organisations to get people the support they need.

This includes Peabody, council housing teams, charities such as CHESS Homeless, Sanctus, Open Road, the First Stop Centre in Braintree, and the Salvation Army, emergency night shelters, faith groups, drug and alcohol services, and food banks.

Adam Waller-Toyne, Service Manager for Essex Mental Health at Peabody, said: “As homelessness levels rise, and living costs soar, our peer workers are on hand to engage with and support people facing or experiencing homelessness in Essex.

“People who are forced to live on the streets are chronically excluded and have difficulty engaging with mainstream services, leaving them vulnerable.

“Our expert peer workers - some of which have experienced homelessness themselves - are understanding and empathetic, offering tailored support to help reintegrate homeless people into society.

“Together with the support of our partners and the fantastic network of local charities, we’ve collectively made a significant difference to the lives of more than 1,000 people in the community.”

Emma Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of Sanctus, said: “The homeless and vulnerable community at Sanctus Charity are benefitting greatly from the input of Angie and the EPUT team.

“Being able to access this service has meant that many individuals who would either have faced long waits to be seen by a professional or even considered ending their lives, now have a route to engage with local mental health services and feel heard and understood.

“This has also underpinned the work of our Support Hub Team and provided them with easy access to an invaluable provision.”

Councillor Lynette Bowers-Flint, Cabinet Member for Housing, Health and Wellbeing at Braintree District Council, said: “This partnership has brought significant benefits for individuals who are at risk of rough sleeping. 

“It has helped to bring agencies together to support some of our most disadvantaged residents, with the Mental Health Navigator role proving invaluable in supporting customers to engage with services and work towards finding a long term solution to their housing need.” 

If you see someone who is sleeping rough and want to connect them to support services, visit Streetlink.

An alert will be sent to local outreach teams, who can then help the person. If they are under 18, Streetlink advises you to call 999.

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