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Innovative technology gives Public the power to help rough sleepers this winter

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Innovative technology gives Public the power to help rough sleepers this winter

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Published by Susan Littlemore for Riverside in Housing and also in Health

Image of Riverside ECHG's QR scanner on a mobile phone Image of Riverside ECHG's QR scanner on a mobile phone

A groundbreaking new homelessness service is using SmartPhone technology to encourage the public to help vulnerable people they see rough sleeping this winter.

No Second Night Out is run by housing association Riverside ECHG and is a partnership with the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities.  It has taken the unique step of linking its 24/7 helpline with SmartPhone technology by adding a QR scanner box on all information materials. 

People with SmartPhones who have downloaded the generic QR scanning application which is now used on most marketing campaigns can scan the box and be taken straight to a reporting page for the Riverside team.

“Many people use SmartPhone technology to do things more quickly and easily so we couldn’t see why we couldn’t make this work for our service,” said Riverside’s Manager, Eleanor Smith. “During winter we are dealing with saving rough sleepers’ lives so what better use of technology!”

No Second Night Out compliments existing rough sleeper services across Greater Manchester with its specific focus on people who are new to the streets.  This is line with Government policy and the knowledge that it is easier, cheaper and more beneficial to get people off the streets before they become entrenched in the lifestyle that can cause them to develop a range of complex problems that threaten their lives.

The initial set-up phase of the service has already shown the effectiveness of the No Second Night Out approach.

“Increasing numbers of the general public are alerting us to rough sleepers and this has the benefit that they don’t have to wait until they get home or to the office to do this,” said Eleanor Smith.  “In turn this enables our outreach team on the streets to get out quickly to find someone sleeping rough. 

The benefits of this fast-response approach have already been seen and  outreach teams have been able to show that they can get out and assess someone and make an almost immediate offer of appropriate support. This can range from a stay in emergency accommodation, to more complex support that reconnects the person with their family or local community.

Findings from the initial set-up phase of the service from April to October have shown that this quick-response approach has meant that Riverside’s team have already worked with 217 people who identified themselves as rough sleepers across Greater Manchester.  Of these, 20 percent were assisted the same day and almost 70 percent within the 24 hours. 

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities has funded No Second Night Out in Greater Manchester with £107,000 of funding. 

As part of developing the No Second Night Out service, Riverside is also training a team of dedicated Volunteer Mentors, in partnership with national agency, Homeless Link.  The Mentors, some of whom have also been homeless in the past, will work with clients as they come off the streets to help build their self confidence, lifeskills and training opportunities so that there will be less likelihood of them ever returning to the streets again.

Mark McPherson, Director of Practice and Regions at Homeless Link, said: “Homeless Link are delighted that Manchester City and the surrounding areas are working together to join the campaign to end rough sleeping in this country. Every night, someone sleeps rough for the first time. We know that the longer they stay out, the worse their problems can get and the harder they can be to overcome. A life on the streets can lead to substance misuse, crime and serious physical or mental health problems.

“Everyone can take a step to help prevent this from happening. No Second Night Out is a simple standard that means putting the right services in place so no one spends more than a single night on the streets. Manchester is leading the way on this commitment in their region. We look forward to supporting them on their journey.”

On Monday 26 November the official Protocol Agreement between Riverside ECHG and all ten Greater Manchester local authorities will be signed at the Town Hall signifying the full commencement of the service across the region.

 ENDS

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