Making the Difference - day centres transforming efforts to end rough sleeping

Tuesday, 2 December 2014 - 11:43am

Involving day centres in local efforts to tackle rough sleeping can transform the effectiveness of that work, yet in many areas they aren’t seen as part of the solution. We ask why that is, and how communities benefit when they aren’t excluded.

Photograph: The Spires day centre, London

Most people who sleep rough in England will at some point look for support from one of the 200+ homelessness day centres around the country.

Many are prepared to work with day centres even when they are unable or unwilling to engage with other local services. Working with 8,500 people every day across England, day centres are in a unique position to help some of the most severely excluded individuals. By building links with other services, they can play a key practical and strategic role in local efforts to end homelessness.

There are many cases – in Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere – that show that the stronger the link between day centres and the services around them, the greater the chance that people will be linked with the services they need to move on from homelessness for good.

"The immediacy of the service is crucial to the success of the project."

However, day centres in many areas aren’t seen as part of the solution. There is a perception that they can only meet the immediate needs of people, and this often leaves them isolated from local efforts to tackle rough sleeping. This is an unnecessary barrier for day centres and a missed opportunity for the wider community. It is something we would like to change.

Unique opportunities to end rough sleeping

As community-based organisations, often with a strong volunteer base and historical roots in the local area, day centres are in a perfect position to play a key role working with other local services to support people off the streets. They are often the first point of contact for those at risk of homelessness. In fact in many communities, day centres are the only services working with people who are sleeping rough and others at risk of homelessness.

"It is a key partner of the city - people need a safe, unpressured space to form relationships with staff."

There are many examples of day centres carrying out ground breaking work which has transformed local efforts to end rough sleeping.

For instance, there’s the Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool which leads the local No Second Night Out response to rough sleeping across the city (the first of its kind outside London). Local council commissioner Kath Wallace describes the centre as “a key partner of the city” because “people need a safe, unpressured space to form relationships with staff.”

And then there’s Beacon House in Colchester which was given an annual target of connecting at least 150 new people with mainstream services. “They have met and surpassed their targets each year… the immediacy of the service is crucial to the success of the project,” says Debra Wyrill-Ryan, Senior Commissioning Support Officer, Essex County Council.

Making the Difference – what your local day centre could do for you

With an increase in rough sleeping and cuts to statutory services, demand on day centres has increased. They are seeing more people with high support needs and they are having to make some tough choices about how best to use their resources. As in Liverpool and Colchester above, this has created opportunities for day centres to play a greater role locally, and for other services who can benefit from these unique resources.

We have published Making the Difference, a new guide to highlight innovative and effective partnerships that are already working between day centres and statutory partners.

We hope it will help local areas see the potential for diverse services to work more closely, and how when that happens the level and nature of support for people can improve dramatically.

We also look at the simple, practical steps that commissioners, statutory services and others can take to get started on building those partnerships.

You can download Making the Difference below.

About our work with day centres

We’ve published Making the Difference as part of our ongoing Day Centres project. With funding from John Lang Charitable Trust and the Tudor Trust, over the next three years we will:

  • Build our existing network of 200 day centres by supporting agencies in 11 areas to work more closely together
  • Provide guidance and support to day centres to improve practice
  • Regularly share learning with day centres and other agencies
  • Encourage other agencies to recognise the value of day centres and to work with them to help end homelessness.

Making the difference: How day centres are helping to tackle rough sleeping 2014

This guide explains how, by working closely with day centres, councils and other agencies can ensure that no opportunity to help someone sleeping rough is wasted.


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Will Baldwin

Will Baldwin

Good Practice Officer at Homeless Link until April 2015

Will was the practice lead for Homeless Link's Day Centres project until April 2015.