What do we do on outreach?


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We’ve previously talked about what our outreach workers do. They spend their days supporting people who are homeless and in vulnerable situations. But what is outreach itself?

Outreach is a term often used in the homeless sector. But, for those not in this sector, it probably not a well-known term. That’s why, in this blog post, we’ll be taking you through what outreach is, what it aims to do and what we do while on outreach. We’ll also let you know how you can help our outreach team provide support to people experiencing homelessness.

What is outreach and what does it aim to do?

Outreach provides support to people experiencing homelessness by going out to meet them where there are, which is often on the streets. Many homeless people face barriers to accessing services. By meeting them on the streets, outreach workers break that barrier to support. We’re not expecting people experiencing homelessness to come to us. Instead, we go out to them.

Outreach aims to find people sleeping rough and engage with them assertively. On outreach, we identify each person’s needs and establish and build relationships.

Find people sleeping rough.

On outreach, our teams go head out in the day, night and the early hours of the morning to find people who are rough sleeping. Our referrals come from many places, including other services, local businesses and members of the public. After receiving a referral, we always aim to attend as quickly as we can, although this isn’t always possible.

Sometimes our teams go out outreach in the city centre. But, more often they’re out of the city centre, where people are hidden and homeless. They could be checking abandoned buildings, local parks or even scrambling through woodland to find people experiencing homelessness.

Identify needs.

When we find a person experiencing homelessness on outreach, we begin to identify their needs. We always work towards each person’s own goals. We’ll ask everyone what they’d like to do and provide information on options available to them. For example, when we first met Mitch* on outreach, he was sleeping rough after his release from prison. Mitch wanted a home on his own and to get support for his drug dependency. We’ve supported Mitch with accessing a drug support service and he’s had a housing assessment for his own property.

Establish a trusting relationship.

Our work centres on creating trusting relationships with the people we support. Many people experiencing homelessness are mistrustful of services. They've been let down. They’ve struggled to get help. They’ve been labelled "intentionally homeless", "failed" and "chaotic". By engaging with people, listening to their needs, and building trust, we aim to establish a supportive relationship. This will often begin with the offer of a sandwich or coffee while on outreach.

Aiden* has been sleeping rough for a long time. He has a deep mistrust of services and rarely talks to anyone offering him support. We regularly check in with Aiden while on outreach and let him know he can come to us anytime for support. When he recently had his belongings stolen, he asked us for help. We provided Aiden with new clothes and a bag. We continue to check in with him and are slowly building a positive and trusting relationship.

What can I do if I see someone sleeping rough?

Let us know! Get in touch by phone or email and let us know with that person’s location. Our team of outreach workers can visit and offer specialist support. The more exact the location, the easier it is for us to locate them. You can also find information about where to get support in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees on our website.

Outreach on the streets helps us identify people experiencing homelessness who are in need of support. Once we’ve found someone, we work hard to identify their needs and establish a trusting relationship. From there, we can support that person on their journey to turn their life around.

We know homelessness is going to increase this winter. Our team is already seeing a big increase in the number of people contacting us for help. Can you join us for Simon’s Sleepover? Spend one night sleeping anywhere but your bed so someone else can receive the support they need to end homelessness. Sign up for Simon’s Sleepover today.

*Real names not used

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