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Case Study: St Mungo’s

The St Mungo’s group in Bristol believe that supporting the homeless is not just about providing accommodation. Watch this video to find out more.
St Mungo’s is a national charity that works with homeless people, with a particular focus on rough sleeping. Our vision is to end rough sleeping in the areas that we work and to help people to rebuild meaningful lives. So in Bristol St Mungo’s has a rough sleeper outreach team that goes out and works with people. We do about 14 shifts during the week, meeting rough sleepers on the streets and helping them to have a safe route to get off the streets and into accommodation. We also run homeless hostels in the city and mental health support services.
We work really closely in collaboration with other organisations as part of a rough sleeping partnership and a network of supported housing providers and other services. We work really closely with Bristol City Council, the Police, the Home Office to some extent and other charities like Crisis Centre Ministries, Julian Trust, Caring in Bristol, Second Step, Places for People, the list goes on and on. Some people have a really short contact with St Mungo’s and we give some advice to someone, maybe who we wake up on the street with a coffee and tell them what the realistic options are that available to them and then they take those options up themselves.
With some other people, it can be a bit of a longer story, but we are persistent and we don’t give up on people and we work towards finding a long-term solution in everyone’s individual circumstances and individual cases. With one person who had a challenging immigration status we worked very closely with him and negotiated with the Home Office to agree a temporary leave to remain in the country, so that he could apply for asylum, but be in supported accommodation while he did so. And that got him off of the streets after a period of about six years on and off living on the streets of Bristol.
It can be a very challenging environment, sometimes working with people who are at a point of desperation and I think as long as we remember that everyone has very specific individual needs and desires and strengths and work with those then it can really help make a difference. I want to end street homelessness in Bristol and I think that we could do it. One of the things that we critically need to do is fix the housing market in Bristol. We’ve got major problems with demand. There’s huge demand and limited supply and we need to think differently about what the housing market of Bristol looks like.
But, it sounds like an impossible problem, we could take some steps like thinking about softening the boundaries and thinking about where we house people and still consider them part of Bristol. That’s the sort of thing we could do in the short term, long term we need to build more housing, simple as that. If we get the right policies, the right agreement and everyone working together and a concerted effort over the next two years, I think it’s possible and it’s going to be harder if we don’t quite get everyone to agree, but I think the will is there, the resources could be there and if we all work together we’ll get there.
I started out as a software engineer at university and I realised part-way through my university career that I didn’t really want to be employed long term as a software engineer. I didn’t know that you could earn enough of a living to get by while doing the sort of work that we’re doing, I thought it was all completely volunteer-run and I learned differently while I was a student and started changing the path that I was on, but really the thing that drives me is just wanting to make a positive difference in the world around me and I think that this is a way that I can do that.
I think if we’re all contributing to making a better society then the world will be a better place. People can get involved in making the world around them better on a whole range, a spectrum of ways really. All the way from just being more aware of how the world around you works, thinking about who you vote for, what politics you agree with or disagree with, getting active around issues that concern you and trying to do something about them. So that could be volunteering to help an organisation, it could be getting involved in doing this sort of work, it could be donating money or it could be volunteering your time overnight to help out a night shelter say.
You know we run homeless night shelters for rough sleepers and if someone was volunteering once a fortnight, once a month, on a regular basis it would make a massive difference to be able to help a huge number of people get off the streets and have somewhere safe to stay.

The St Mungo’s group in Bristol city believe that supporting the homeless is not just about providing them with accommodation.

Housing is one of the many services they offer. For more than forty years, their team of volunteers have supported homeless men and women with their health needs, training and employment opportunities. Training and education services includes numeracy, literacy, IT and interview skills development. This helps to improve people’s confidence in both their personal life and future employment. Sports are another aspect of the project and one that offers fun, sociable and healthy group activities.

Those searching with housing are provided with advice. Mental and physical health services are also provided.

Homeless people are not just recipients of volunteer efforts; they also work with the team to run the café in The Compass Centre and take part in preventative initiatives such as Peer Advice Link (PAL). PAL promotes a peer support approach where people use their knowledge and experience of homelessness to support others on their journey, in addition to practical matters and signposting to community services..

In Bristol, St Mungo’s also offers other services, such as Assertive Contact and Engagement (ACE) which focuses on helping people access mental health treatment.

In this step, we meet David Ingerslev, who has worked within the housing sector for decades. Since finishing his degree in Computer Software Engineering at the University of Southampton, he has spent the majority of his time working with the Bristol Supported Housing Forum and St Mungo’s. He is an active member of the City Council’s Homes Board, which is responsible for housing strategy in Bristol. David also volunteers with the North Bristol Advice Centre and applies his software engineering skills to improve IT systems and database management.

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