Day of action supporting people on the streets

Day of action supporting people on the streets - 12/11/2020

Inter-agency working between services supporting people who are homeless or rough sleeping is well established in Sheffield. This partnership working takes many forms, including regular meetings, sharing of information, and outreach sessions around the city centre and surrounding areas.

Services have always carried out regular outreach, yet this has increased during the pandemic as buildings have had to close, or restrict access to ensure social distancing. People who would normally access homelessness services have found their opportunities to access support reduced, making outreach an even more important method of staying in touch and keeping people safe. 

Several times throughout the year services come together for inter-agency outreach sessions, known as ‘days of action’. One recent day of action involved staff and volunteers from across Sheffield services, including: South Yorkshire Police, Sheffield Treatment and Recovery Team, Rough Sleeper Team, Hep C Trust, Probation Services and the city centre parish nurse. The main aim of the day was to engage with people found on the streets, rough sleeping, begging or already known to services, and offer support and help with any service providers.

Teams walked around the city centre, Ecclesall Road and the London/Abbeydale Road area, offering support relating to accommodation, health, encourage to access prescribed drugs and treatment, HEP C testing, re-engagement with probation and any other support needed.

Sophie Fell from the Hep C team at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust was involved in the day of action, and reflected, “it went really well and demonstrated top class interagency working.” During the day, Sophie and the team tested 21 people for Hep C. Of the 21 tested, within a week, two who had tested positive had attended for assessment for treatment, largely down to the invaluable support of Hep C peers. 

Sophie commented, “It was great to get out and engage with difficult to reach clients and provide information about Hep C, screening, and to introduce clients to our peers and social workers - all with a view to improving access to services and holistic support. These are people we would not have been able to engage through traditional routes so a truly excellent result!”

The involvement of peers in the Sheffield approach to tackling Hep C has proven instrumental in breaking down stigma and misinformation about treatment options. Two of the peers who joined the day of action shared their experiences in the short videos below, and you can read more about the work of the Hep C Trust on our blog: http://blog/breaking-the-stigma-of-hepatitis-c

Sheffield city centre’s Parish Nurse, Michaela Suckling was also part of the day of action. Being involved helps her to get a better understanding of who’s sleeping out, what their needs are, and the best way to support them, strengthening her role as a vital link with the streets. On the day of action, Michaela gave out 10 face masks, and used her 1 metre ruler to discuss social distancing and the serious risks related to Covid with people she met. 

Michaela shared a few interactions with us: “I was able to offer some bereavement and spiritual support to one of the guys who was facing the anniversary of the death of his mum. He knew St Matthews and was comforted to know I’d add his Mum's name to the prayer list and would light a candle for her. I also saw one of the guys I hadn’t seen for a while, it was good to catch up, as with many he was doing ok but out on the street because he was so lonely at home. He was happy to share his number so I could get him linked into a rehab group. I was also able to sign post him to the A&E drop in on Broad Lane to access treatment for an injury.” 

The importance of multi-agency outreach sessions can be demonstrated in the following case studies:

Case study 1 - contact with 5 services in one meeting

The team spoke with X in the city centre. Kate from the Sheffield Treatment and Recovery Team contacted Fitzwilliam Centre to re-start X’s script for drug treatment. X was advised to attend the Archer Project to engage with Will, her officer to discuss accommodation options. X was given a face mask and advised on Covid safety by the Parish Nurse. X is already working with and receiving support from SWWOP (Sheffield Working Women Oportunity Project). 

Case study 2 - contact with 4 services in one meeting

The team spoke with Y in the city centre. Fran from Probation arranged a mental health assessment with the Community Mental Health Team and arranged an appointment at his  B&B for that day at 2 pm. Y had an injury to his foot, which was attended to by the Parish Nurse, who was also able to pay for a taxi through St Matthews’ fund for Y to return to his B&B to make sure he attended his mental health assessment. 

By bringing support workers out onto the streets in this way, with the ability to offer support and refer people directly into services, help is being provided in an easy to access way, which will hopefully encourage greater take up. Enabling people to speak to 4 or 5 services in one meeting, with their needs looked at holistically, helps to ensure that everyone involved is fully informed and supported.

 Alison Wise for Help us Help, Nov 2020