With rough sleeping in London on the rise, we spoke to our street outreach worker Felix Jillett about his work and what members of the public can do to help.

SHP’s Felix Jillett is the Borough of Redbridge’s only street outreach worker. Each day he goes out on the streets at either 5.30am or 9.30pm to make contact with rough sleepers.

“It’s my job to find new rough sleepers, assess them and link them with services that can support them to find accommodation,” Felix says. “When I’m not looking for new rough sleepers, I re-visit known rough sleepers to update them on their casework”.

To locate people in need of help, Felix takes referrals from StreetLink, a national service that allows members of the public to report when they see someone who may be sleeping on the streets.

“I respond to referrals within 48 hours, which means going to the location where the person was last spotted and seeing if they are still there or somewhere nearby,” says Felix.

“I also check isolated locations that tend to attract rough sleepers. Everyone sees rough sleepers in shop doorways and on benches, but I also find people sleeping in cemeteries, in stair cases, in parks and forests, in hospital waiting rooms. These people are rarely noticed by the public so they are less likely to have a StreetLink referral made.

“I find that rough sleeping is usually less visible in winter because the colder weather means rough sleepers need to be more selective about where they sleep. They need to pick areas that are sheltered and therefore are usually out of site. This doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. For every rough sleeper you can see there will be two more you can’t.”

Felix will carry out an assessment and, if the person is eligible, try to take them to the No Second Night Out hub, from which they can be referred to temporary accommodation in their local borough. SHP runs the entire homeless pathway in Redbridge. Across three hostels, our staff provide a stable and secure environment for clients as they work with them to address their needs, with the ultimate aim of supporting them to move on and live independently.

Rough sleeping in London has more than doubled since 2010, with a thousand people now sleeping on the streets of the capital each night.

Felix says: “It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of numbers like that. But the one meaningful thing you can do if you see someone you think may be rough sleeping is to alert StreetLink.

“If I can get somebody into the NSNO Hub, it usually guarantees their route out of homelessness,” says Felix. “It’s not possible to take everyone, but there is a lot of work we can do in-borough for those who can’t go.”

How to know if someone is living on the streets

People often make StreetLink referrals for people they have seen begging, but not sleeping. It is not always clear whether someone is really sleeping rough.

To help StreetLink to focus on rough sleepers, please consider the following when making a referral:

  • Have you seen the person asleep on the street?
  • Have you seen someone sleeping in the same spot on more than one occasion – for example, while you’re walking to work?
  • Have you seen someone with bedding in a place where they had no reason to be? Rough sleepers often find quiet places out of the way. Make sure you’re telling us about these people, if you see them.
  • Have you been told by someone that they are sleeping on the streets? StreetLink accept referrals from GPs, healthcare professionals, social workers or anyone who has been told about someone who is sleeping rough.

What should I do next?

Visit StreetLink and try to give as much information as possible. Where exactly did you see them? What time of day? Were they awake or asleep?

What else can I do to help?

Donating or raising money for our work can really make a difference. Read about Fred’s story and help us get more people off the streets for good.


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