Rough sleepers struggling with mental illness or addiction are being helped off substances and into homes by a unique service run by Kensington and Chelsea Council.
The Rough Sleeper Dual Diagnosis Service has helped 14 rough sleepers enter rehab in the last two years, with 10 of them now “abstinent” from substances, seven living in their own permanent home and a further four due to be housed soon.
The service, which is the only one of its kind in the country, sees trained officers work in conjunction with the Council’s Street Population Outreach Team to patrol the borough to identify anyone who might benefit from the specialist assistance on offer.
Rough sleepers are helped off the streets into accommodation and receive personalised support plans including everything from counselling and group therapy to detox and rehab.
The service follows an abstinence model and operates under a peer support system which means the officers have experience of some of the issues they come across.
Gavin Stewart, Dual Diagnosis Outreach Worker for Kensington and Chelsea Council, said: “This service shows that street homeless people can, with help, completely change their lives and deal with the underlying issues that lead to sleeping rough.
“I am empowered to do what is needed for each individual and tailor our service to their needs, and that makes a big difference.
“I’m in recovery from substance use myself and I know what it’s like to be at rock bottom and not know where to turn. I hope my experience helps get people on board because I have been there and know what it’s like for them.”
Michael, a former rough sleeper who has been helped by the Rough Sleeper Dual Diagnosis Service, said: “Before the streets I spent many years in prison and when I came out it overwhelmed me because so much had changed.
“I didn’t know where to ask for help – I became an introvert, became angry and it led to addiction. Gavin has been a big help since then.
“Since working with Gavin, I’ve been correctly diagnosed and been given medications to help me with day-to-day living.
“I’ve been introduced to recovery, put into residential rehab and now I’m in a position where I’m close to getting my own accommodation and looking for employment once that happens.
“Now that I’ve got this opportunity, I would love to get somewhere where I can feel safe, feel comfortable and put some roots down. I’ve never had that.
“Where I am today is beyond my wildest dreams – something that I never would have imagined has been made possible.”
Kensington and Chelsea Council’s unique Rough Sleeper Dual Diagnosis Service offers bespoke drug and mental health support for rough sleepers service has helped 14 clients enter rehab since launch, with 10 remaining clean from addiction and 11 in their own home or due to be housed
Former rough sleeper Michael, who has overcome addiction and is set to move into his own home, says results are “beyond wildest dreams”.
Cllr Kim Taylor-Smith, Lead Member for Grenfell, Housing and Social Investment, said: “Rough sleeping can have a devastating impact on some of our most vulnerable residents which is only amplified by problems with mental health or addiction.
“It’s heart-warming to see how this unique service has empowered Michael to tackle these issues by providing him with the help and support he needs, when he needs it, and I wish him the very best for the future.
“We will continue working with our partners to help more people follow Michael’s example, getting them off the streets and into safe homes and making progress towards our ultimate goal of ending rough sleeping on our streets for good.”
Kensington and Chelsea council has a Homelessness and Rough Sleeping Reduction Strategy detailing how it supports vulnerable residents.
Photo credit: Kensington and Chelsea Council