You may have noticed more people sleeping or begging on Watford’s streets over the last year. Rough sleeping has increased in our town (as it has throughout England) and has been at a consistently and alarmingly high rate for over a year, now.
Last September, we responded to this need by trialling changes to the opening times at our Haven Support Centre. Since then we have been offering support exclusively to people either: sleeping rough, staying in one of our emergency accommodations or sofa surfing (the latter by appointment only) between 9am and 11am, and continuing to provide a community lunch between 11am and 12:30pm. It has now been nine months since we began these changes and, while the number of people sleeping rough has not increased further, it remains distressingly high.
We have therefore decided to launch a new service at the Haven, the Rough Sleeping Prevention Service (RSPS). This will replace the current drop-in and outreach services and focus entirely on supporting those most in need – people sleeping rough, sofa surfing and at immediate risk of homelessness.
This new service will begin in September. It will run from Monday to Saturday and will be structured as follows:
- The day will begin with a hot breakfast for people sleeping rough, served until 10am.
- The remainder of the day will consist of one-to-one appointments through which staff will support people through advice and referrals, including into accommodation.
- Those eligible to access the service will receive a free takeaway lunch.
New Hope is committed to preventing homelessness in our town, including by supporting people who have been homeless and are now living in their own home. We are currently working with those who won’t be eligible for the RSPS to ensure they access more appropriate support from August onwards. For many, this will mean going to our Tenancy Sustainment Team, located in the Haven Support Centre building, which enabled 100% of its service users to keep their tenancies in the last financial year. To make sure we have the resources to continue supporting all in need of this service, we are investing in an additional TST staff member for one year.
By making these changes, we are responding to the continuing high levels of rough sleeping in our town and returning to our roots. When our founders, Janet and Sheila, first began our work, they were moved to do so by those they saw sleeping and begging on Watford’s streets. Today, we have many more resources to help these people through our various services, partnerships with other incredible organisations and the amazing support of our community. Together, we will prevent more people from becoming homeless and enable more lives to be transformed as they move forward on their journey of recovery.
Thank you for the role you play in this vital work.