SOS: Street Outreach Service

Rebecca Palmer, Fundraising and Communications Manager writes:

I recently went down to the basement at Queens Road to look through some of our archive material as part of preparing for events to mark New Hope’s 30th birthday in 2020. I was thrilled to discover an early letter Janet Hosier wrote describing her first experiences of getting to know some of the men who were homeless in Watford, when she and Sheila volunteered at the Tower Club at St Mary's Church.

"On the night we opened the church we were humanly fearful. One chap was sniffing from a glue bag. It was frightening as this was our first experience of anyone with this addiction.

But over the next three years God exploded a lot of the pre-conceived ideas we had about alcoholics, glue sniffers and the homeless.

He showed us broken hearts, lonely people crying out for love. Little children inside grown men’s bodies, with a hard shell built up over the years for protection against a hostile world."

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When Janet, Sheila and Tim started New Hope in 1990, there were many men who were sleeping rough in the town. The charity has grown over the years – we no longer have ‘The Coaches’ and we accommodate over 60 people every night. Yet, each day the Rough Sleeping Prevention Service is providing support to almost 40 individuals who are sleeping rough in Watford.

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We are grateful for our partnership with Watford Borough Council; because of their support and with funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, we are able to extend and expand our street outreach provision. Watch out for our new Street Outreach Service (SOS) in the town as they go out at different times of day and night to offer specialist support and develop long-term supportive relationships with people who are sleeping rough in Watford.

Whenever I speak at a church or a community group, people always ask about the best ways to help people they see begging or sleeping rough. It’s always hard seeing people on the streets and it’s difficult to know what to do and what to say, especially when your heart is moved and you feel such compassion.

There are a number of ways you can help:

  • Contact New Hope using the 24/7 phone number – 0300 012 0168 – so that the SOS team can engage with the individual and offer appropriate support

  • Use the StreetLink App (a nationwide app linking specialised support with people who are street homeless)

  • Remember if someone is in need of immediate assistance, call the police on 101 or 999

I asked a former New Hope service user (who is now a colleague) about whether we should give money to people we see begging on the streets and he said:

When I was sleeping rough, I used to beg and I would spend the money on alcohol and gambling. A lady gave me £50 and told me to use it to clean myself up. I bought a sandwich and then went to the bookies. It was all gone in 15 minutes.

If you want to help people who are homeless in Watford, please give to New Hope rather than people on the street. It’s the best way to help people in the long-term and see genuine transformation – people set free from their addictions.

If you would like to help people in the long-term, please consider becoming a Friend of New Hope.

Rebecca Palmer