Rough sleepers waiting on a permanent home are being provided with accommodation and “around the clock support” this winter thanks to a new project in Westminster.
The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields, an independent charity near the legendary Trafalgar Square church where The Big Issue was launched, is running the The Bridge accommodation project for six months, giving residents their own self-contained bedroom, bathroom and cooking facilities.
An emergency accommodation team will also be on-hand to provide help and residents will receive three meals a day and laundry facilities.
Pam Orchard, chief executive of The Connection at St Martin’s, said she was “thrilled” to open the Bridge.
“We know from our work in hotels during the pandemic that having somewhere safe and warm, the stability of a roof over your head and the right support services on hand has a big impact on people’s ability to recover from homelessness,” Orchard told The Big Issue.
The Homeless Health nursing team will be on site twice a week offering flu jabs, Covid tests and wound dressing. Social care organisation Turning Point will assist with drug and alcohol support, with psychologists and a speech and language therapist also available if needed.
The Connection usually gives people who are homeless hot meals, showers, access to medical appointments and somewhere to sleep at its emergency accommodation.
Its night centre provides beds for up to 75 rough sleepers to protect them from the dangers of sleeping out. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been unable to run as it once did.
Orchard added that The Bridge is vital to allow The Connection to keep helping homeless people this winter.
“With many Covid-19 restrictions on overnight services still in place, this provision is especially important as we head into the winter months,” she said.
During the pandemic, The Connection has helped more than 350 people into hotels, with over 260 then given an alternative accommodation offer.
According to the latest figures from CHAIN, the Combined Homelessness and Information Network, there were 2,069 people newly sleeping rough on London’s streets between July and September this year.
This is a third more than the previous quarter and up from 1,382 in the same period last year.
St Mungo’s chief executive Howard Sinclair said the statistics were a “national scandal” which showed a “rough sleeping crisis on our streets”.
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Correction: This article initially stated The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields charity was connected to the St Martin-in-the-Fields church, but it is a separate, independent organisation.