Joined the campaign: Early 2016
Who’s involved? The campaign in Westminster is led by the Westminster Homeless Action Together (WHAT) group which is made up of various organisations including St Mungos, The Passage, The Connection at St Martins, Groundswell, West London Mission and the Abbey Centre. The campaign is supported by the City of Westminster.
Context: Westminster is often called the capital of London and has the highest number of people sleeping on the streets in the UK. In 2016 the Westminster local authority count counted 260 people on the street. However, Connections Week figures revealed this is a significantly lower figure than reality.
What has happened so far?
Westminster held their Connections Week in July 2016. During the week more than 300 volunteers speaking 36 languages each gave a minimum of ten hours to the project. These volunteers formed 32 teams covering eight square miles in Westminster, London. They encountered 461 people sleeping rough, with 267 surveys being completed. Analysis of the surveys found that 87% of people were male, 47% were 35 or under, 49% had come to London for work and 10% were working whilst sleeping rough. More detailed results can be found here and the full report can be downloaded here.
Following the Connections Week the partners of WHAT have been working to advance discussions on Housing First in Westminster. Because of the campaign Westminster Council’s Rough Sleeping Strategy includes a note on the need to include the community in responses to end street homelessness.
Voices of people with lived experience: Like in the other campaign cities all partners involved in Westminster put the voices of people with lived experience at the centre of their work. Their Connections Week involved a number of ‘peers’ – people who had or who were sleeping on the streets. They provided valuable insight into the hardship of sleeping on the street.
WHAT partners are now developing further plans to move the campaign forward in Westminster and are planning a second Connections Week for 2018. There are already 10 homes running through Housing First in Westminster with plans to develop this further.
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