Street Buddies coming to the East End to get rough sleepers off the streets and even get them work
- Credit: Riverside Housing
A woman sleeping rough each night for 10 years now has a home and a job helping a project being set up in the East End for volunteers with experience of homelessness to help others on the streets.
Trisha is one of the recruits to the “Street Buddies” programme which has already been running successfully in central London and now being expanded to five London boroughs such as Tower Hamlets as well as The City.
Her life changed after she became a Street Buddy which ended more than a decade of homelessness and drug addiction.
“I’m now working full-time, something I never thought possible,” she said. “I can look my parents in the eye and say that I’m not a waste of space.”
She has accommodation over the river from the Isle of Dogs in Greenwich.
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Street Buddies is targeting areas prone to rough sleeping such as Aldgate, Whitechapel and Spitalfields and similar areas around Bethnal Green, Shorteditch and Poplar.
The pandemic lockdown led to a shock 77 per cent rise in people sleeping rough for the first time, with 2,680 across London who had been turfed onto the streets between April and June.
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But the emergency had a silver lining with 4,000 homeless people having been put up in hotels and emergency accommodation during the pandemic. Some entrenched rough sleepers left the streets for the first time in years as a result of the government’s “Everyone In” campaign when coronavirus first struck.
But now local authorities need help persuading many to leave the first shelter they’ve had for years and learn how to maintain a long-term home independently.
They have turned to Riverside sheltered housing organisation which has been running the Street Buddies programme for seven years in Westminster.
Its operations manager Amanda Clark said: “Rough sleeping has been a growing humanitarian crisis for 10 years now.
“But the Coronavirus crisis has changed things. We now need to help people living in hotels to move onto long-term and sustainable homes.
“So we want to hear from people with experience of homelessness to help us get the lives of rough sleepers back on track.”
Street Buddies needs 10 volunteers with “lived experience” of mental health issues, homelessness or substance misuse who can empathise with rough sleepers. It has recruited six volunteers so far, but needs more in Tower Hamlets, The City, Southwark, Lambeth and Kensington & Chelsea, as well as applicants for three paid-for full-time jobs by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The £700,000 programme expansion at the end of October is being funded with grants from the GLA, Ministry of Housing, National Lottery, Westminster City Council and the Church Housing Trust.