We have seen a 30% increase in people sleeping rough in London in the last year. Within this group the biggest rise has been amongst foreign nationals. Therefore SST has teamed up with BARKA, an organisation which supports vulnerable European migrants to return home and reintegrate into society.
SST and BARKA have been going out on the streets together for a year now and the results have been very positive. BARKA have reconnected 15 SST clients so far. These people are now back living with family and friends rather than sleeping on the streets of Camden.
We expect our work with BARKA to increase in the coming year because we are seeing an increase in people coming from abroad escaping poor economic conditions in their home countries but who are either finding themselves unemployed or very vulnerably employed in the UK. Many are being seriously exploited and their ability to access support is limited.
People without an established connection to Camden are not entitled to local services (other than primary health care) and have no right to council housing. Also, since a change in legislation in April, the majority
can no longer claim housing benefit if they are unemployed. This had led to the more vulnerable amongst them becoming street homeless. Unless they can find work and accommodation privately quickly, their best option is a supported return home, where most have support networks.
Like their British counterparts Europeans that become entrenched in a street based lifestyle are often very vulnerable and have numerous heath problems. Therefore when BARKA reconnect someone they do not just put people on a coach or plane and send them back to live on the street, but will ensure that a proper care package is in place. This means putting people in temporary accommodation and arranging for their immediate health needs to be met. They will then contact family, friends or others who can accommodate and support these people and ensure access to appropriate health services on their return.
BARKA have even sourced and referred to rehabilitation centres for people returning with drug and alcohol problems in their home countries and SST has also offered detoxification in the UK prior to return.
In the next year we hope to expand this work and build new partnership in other European countries to increase the support we can access for people when they arrive home.