DDN April2022 April 2022 | Page 11


A new service is taking a partnership approach to addressing the needs of London ’ s rough sleepers , says Vicky Ball

Phoenix Futures have just been commissioned to deliver part of a new pan-London pathway developed to improve access to drug and alcohol treatment for people who sleep rough . The Homeless Substance Misuse Engagement Team will be taking referrals from across the capital and working alongside existing teams to support individuals to take the steps that will increase their readiness to access services .

We ’ ll be engaging with people across a range of settings , working out what they need and adapting our approach to fit around them . The broad aim of the pathway , which includes inpatient detox and step-down rehabilitation beds , is to improve the experience , outcomes , quality of life , and life expectancy of the people we work with and we ’ re proud to be part of it .
Phoenix have been delivering support to those in housing need for most of our 50-year history and have long been vociferous advocates for an improvement in access to treatment for people who are homeless . According to the Greater London Authority ’ s CHAIN report , 60 per cent of the 11,000 rough sleepers encountered by outreach teams in London last year were assessed as having a drug or alcohol-related need . This is a group of people who are largely excluded from health services , with often limited access to primary care , and the barriers to drug and alcohol treatment are numerous and can be both practical and personal .
Experiences of discrimination , disadvantage , and trauma are compounded by the inherent instability , stress , and physical and psychological burden of homelessness . Attendance at
regular pre-arranged appointments takes gargantuan effort when you are sleeping in a doorway . It ’ s remarkable that some people manage it . Yet this group is so often characterised as not wanting support or as having made a ‘ lifestyle choice ’. Here , with this new pathway , we have a small opportunity to change this narrative .
We have long argued that a housing-led approach to resolving homelessness ignores the complexity of the problem . Accommodation can provide some relief from some of the physical and psychological effects of rough sleeping . However , we at Phoenix believe that we should aspire to more for the people we work with . Addiction prevents the great majority of those who use drugs or alcohol problematically from achieving their full potential and ultimately leaves them vulnerable to repeat homelessness . That ’ s why
we ’ ve campaigned for the right of people who sleep rough to be given the opportunity to access drug and alcohol treatment , and that ’ s why we ’ re so excited to be part of this brilliant new pathway .
We have a proud history of developing strong partnerships with other agencies . Our ambition for this service is that we work as one multi-disciplinary team with our partners in the pathway , learning about and leaning into each other ’ s strengths as we develop greater understanding of how to flex services to meet the individual where they are – and creating nothing less than systems change .
Vicky Ball is head of housing at Phoenix Futures
Pictured : Central London , February 2022 . A street in Covent Garden is filled with tents and cardboard shelters belonging to homeless people . By Matthew Ashmore / Alamy
Sixty per cent of the 11,000 rough sleepers encountered by outreach teams in London last year were assessed as having a drugor alcohol-related need .