The project was aimed at all street drinkers including those for whom it is an entrenched lifestyle.
Outreach workers contacted more than 180 people in the City Centre and Kensington offering advice and support about reducing drinking levels and, where appropriate, helped them with accommodation and medical needs .
The three month long Assertive Street Outreach initiative- which was funded by Citysafe, the community safety partnership- was led by the Whitechapel Centre working in partnership with the Basement Advisory Centre.
Unlike existing outreach work, which takes place during weekdays, this initiative took place in the evenings and at weekends, which are peak time for street drinkers. Six outreach workers, in teams, contacted street drinkers during these times.
The project aimed to:
• Identify street drinkers and their needs while building working relationships and trust.
• Encourage street drinkers to think about changing their lives and make them aware of the solutions and options available.
• Provide advice on safer drinking and, where needed, help in accessing medical treatment through walk-in centres and or a GP.
• Support people to change by providing practical and emotional support. This involved, among other issues, resolving crises, medical interventions, accessing accommodation or supporting people to remain in accommodation. It also encouraged people to think about longer term change.
• Encourage community awareness by, for example, clearing up litter created by street drinkers.
Advice about reducing harmful drinking levels and behaviour was given to 172 people and 29 were supported into accommodation by the team. Five street drinkers who had tenancies but were struggling to cope took up offers of support.
Two of the most prolific street drinkers were helped to break down the barriers which were preventing them from changing their lives. Both are now indoors and alcohol free.
David, a 46 year old man with a long history of rough sleeping and street drinking. He had slept rough sporadically between 2008 and 2011 before moving into accommodation which he abandoned in 2012.
During the course of the project David was seen by the ‘Out of Hours’ street drinker team on 67 occasions in addition to contacts with the existing Rough Sleeper and Street Drinker Outreach teams.
David was reluctant to engage with the Street Drinker Outreach Workers. At that point he was rough sleeping behind Central Station, drinking two litres of sherry per day and using heroin.
He had a cast on his leg which needed attention and was not in receipt of benefits. Initially he refused all offers of help but gradually David began to build up a relationship with the workers as they were seeing him on a daily basis. Eventually he agreed to think about coming indoors and David was accommodated in a hostel but continued his street drinking lifestyle.
Workers continued to engage and support him and it was agreed to fast track him into detox and he went to Hafen Wen in Wales for drug detox. David was then supported into Transforming Choice (Solna) rehabilitation centre for alcohol detox residential rehabilitation where he has remained alcohol free since 16 December. Transforming Choice said “David is a joy to work with and will join our peer mentor programme to help others in a similar situation”.
Councillor Peter Brennan, Mayoral Lead on Community Safety and Citysafe Board Chair, said: “The value of this project can be seen in the effect it has had on the lives of people like David. Many other people have been supported in reducing the levels of their drinking.
“This project was very successful in both identifying the scale of the problem and the needs of the individuals involved. It has helped very many people to start to change their lives and making them aware of the support which is available.”
David Carter, Chief Executive of The Whitechapel Centre said, “David’s story demonstrates that targeted, intensive work can make a difference to street drinkers and lead to lasting change. Assertive outreach is one of a range of tools agencies can use to reduce harm for individuals and reduce the impact of their anti-social behaviour for the wider public.”
Charlotte Mansbridge, Strategic Director of The Basement Advisory Centre said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to add value to our existing Street Drinking outreach, so we were able to offer a joined up service with our partners to achieve outcomes for those who are entrenched, whilst aiming to reduce harm to the individuals and Anti-Social Behaviour and the fear of crime for the community. “
Councillor Roz Gladden, Deputy Mayor and cabinet member for Adult Social Care, said: “This project shows what can be achieved when agencies work together along with the work carried out by organisations like Transforming Choice- they are making a real difference to the lives of very many people.”
The results of the project are now being evaluated to consider the best way forward in engaging with and supporting street drinkers to change their lives for the better.
If you need support, know someone who does, or if you want to report street drinking in your area – please contact us.