The BID’s Street Team performs many tasks on their daily patrols, supporting businesses, residents and members of the public. These rough sleeper protocols set out how the team interacts with people bedding down in the district, what support is provided and how we share information with outreach teams.
Westminster has by far the highest number of rough sleepers in the country. Westminster City Council (WCC) and partner agencies provide both accommodation and support services, aiming to ensure every rough sleeper receives the best individually-tailored route away from the street.
The volume and specific challenges in Westminster are unlike any other with a highly transient population of non-UK national rough sleepers who have support needs but sleep on our streets for different reasons; a high number of ‘returners’ (habitual rough sleepers who may disappear for short times but periodically return to sleep in Westminster); a core of long-term entrenched individuals; in addition to a number of people who have accommodation and are receiving support but due to complex needs return to the streets during the day.
The welfare of those rough sleeping within the BID area is paramount for us, with this reflected in the daily checks we conduct, our partnership working with Westminster City Council and our team’s training.
Our team have all undertaken a range of training including Highfield-accredited Ofqal Level 2, Rough Sleeper Mental Health Awareness and Conflict Management and De-escalation. This enables team members to engage sensitively and assess the situation with empathy.
At least twice a day the Street Team will undertake a welfare check on every single person bedding down in the BID area, every night before they sign out and every morning as they start their days. In times of severe cold and heat, when a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol has been activated, the team will step up welfare checks. A daily night time count is submitted to the BID team and our dedicated Neighbourhood Co-ordinator at Westminster Council.
The Street Team will ask every rough sleeper if they require any assistance. The team offer to make referrals to Streetlink (which runs outreach and support services) and will do this on site with the rough sleeper if they request support. For those already referred they will ask them if they have received a visit from outreach yet. In some cases the team will refer the rough sleeper more than once, especially if they have changed location. When a rough sleeper is referred to Streetlink their precise location is recorded, plus a description and name if provided, to enable outreach services to find them.
In extreme temperatures the Street Team might come across a rough sleeper who is very cold and does not appear to be moving or breathing, they will always call an ambulance immediately and stay with the rough sleeper until the emergency services arrive.
As well as Streetlink the BID will share information about rough sleepers with our dedicated Neighbourhood Co-ordinator who in turn can then track progress directly with outreach services, to ensure engagement and support plans are being developed.
The Street Team sometimes receive calls from residents or businesses reporting that a rough sleeper has entered private property, and is for example sleeping on a driveway, in a loading bay or bin store, or on a doorstep. The first course of action on the part of our Street Team in this situation is to engage sensitively with the person sleeping rough, explain that they are on private property and ask them politely if they are able to relocate to another location.
The team do check tents and structures made from cardboard, trolleys and bedding. They respect the privacy of people sleeping rough and will not open tents or uncover rough sleepers. The team use their voices and if necessary a torch to make a rough sleeper aware that they are in attendance and making a welfare check. The team will check back on regular occasions to make sure that the rough sleeper has not been taken ill, until they are sure of their welfare.
Rough sleepers sometimes use local cafes to warm up, charge a mobile phone, use the facilities and freshen up. When the Street Team receive a call from a café about a rough sleeper inside the premises, they will attend in the usual way. The team will talk to the manager and check on the rough sleeper. The decision to allow a rough sleeper to remain on the premises will always be the manager’s, but the Street Team will only ask a rough sleeper to leave if they are causing a disturbance. Our Street Team will always have the welfare of the rough sleeper in mind.
Yes you can. If you are concerned about someone sleeping rough, or if you find yourself at risk of sleeping rough, contact Streetlink, the national rough sleeper referral service. You can refer online or by calling 0300 500 0914.
StreetLink can be used by anyone in England and Wales to send an alert about someone who is sleeping or preparing to sleep rough. Alerts are sent to outreach teams, who go out mostly at night to connect people sleeping rough to local support services. StreetLink complements existing outreach work by alerting teams to people they haven’t seen before. Call 999 if the person is in immediate danger, needs medical assistance, or is under 18.
StreetLink can only accept alerts for people who are sleeping rough or preparing to sleep rough and are over 18. If someone is under 18 years old, call 999. Please do not make an alert if the person is begging or engaging in anti-social behaviour if they are not rough sleeping.
If you are homeless, sleeping rough or facing a housing crisis, contact your local council housing options team to find out what help they can offer.
Our rough sleeper protocols have developed over time and are based on best practice from external specialist organisations including Shelter, Homeless Link and the Big Issue.
Whilst the above are our guiding principles, each interaction and situation can be different and will be approached in the most appropriate and effective way, utilising support from other agencies if appropriate.