We teamed with St Mungo’s to initiate First Response in 2018. The scheme currently has over 50 volunteers devoting time to help tackle homelessness in London.
Mathilde Dupouy, St Mungo’s First Response Coordinator, said, ‘First Response has made a huge difference and wouldn’t have been possible without support from The Chestertons Foundation. Our fantastic First Response volunteers spend hours searching the streets looking for vulnerable people sleeping rough across London to make sure they are supported. Their incredible contribution means that our outreach teams can dedicate more time to offering people routes out of homelessness and towards recovery.’
First Response works by recruiting and training volunteers to work alongside Streetlink – the national rough sleeping referral service – and St Mungo’s London outreach teams, to find people who are sleeping rough. St Mungo’s is one of the largest providers of outreach services in the country.
The volunteers locate people who are homeless, sometimes using information from the public who report to us where they have seen someone sleeping outside. They then let St Mungo’s dedicated outreach teams know if they need to respond, or if that person cannot be found.
Typically, over 74% of these public referrals are not found, meaning that specialist outreach workers’ time is often spent checking empty sites. Thanks to the efforts of First Response volunteers filtering out these referrals, St Mungo’s specialist outreach workers are able to use their time more effectively, ensuring as many people as possible can be supported. In the three-year period from 2018, First Response volunteers dedicated over 5,500 hours to locating people sleeping rough across the capital – the equivalent of approximately 1,380 outreach team shifts.
Rumbi, a Rapid Intervention Worker for Westminster Outreach Team, says, ‘I started working with First Response volunteers over a year ago and the volunteers really help me in my work… Instead of having to look for all the referrals, we delegate some to our First Responders who then provide us with the outcome for each referral they check. It’s a big deal for volunteers to give up their time, and I really commend them all.’
Salah Mussa, Chairman of the Chestertons Foundation, says, ‘The Chestertons Foundation is delighted to support St Mungo’s innovative approach to reaching more people who are rough sleeping across London. We are incredibly proud and grateful to all the staff and volunteers that put themselves on the frontline to support people experiencing homelessness – selfless acts that have without doubt saved countless lives.’