A charity has spoken on how they supported hundreds of homeless people in south west London during the pandemic.

Like other frontline services, SPEAR Homelessness Charity had to react immediately and take on new caseloads of people sleeping rough or without somewhere secure to live.

Following the Government’s ‘Everyone In’ directive, which offered every rough sleeper accommodation, the charity found people a safe living environment as part of a pandemic response.

SPEAR’s outreach teams worked tirelessly to support the homeless off the streets and helped almost 700 people across south west London.

Running since 1987, the charity has been operating in the London boroughs of Richmond, Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth.

Your Local Guardian: Lamington helped the homeless on Christmas day Lamington helped the homeless on Christmas day

They say the pandemic has led 2020/21 to be the busiest year in its 33-year history.

“Our caseload grew rapidly, finding more rough sleepers almost every night we went out," said one outreach worker.

"In particular, those whose homelessness was previously hidden (using a friend’s floor or the sofa of a family member) have been left with nowhere to go.

"The social impact of lockdown was incredibly challenging and these challenges are ongoing.”

Outreach Workers persevered and were able to engage with rough sleepers who had previously not accepted help, or people who had recently found themselves homeless due to the impact of the pandemic.

Staff at the charity also work closely with organisations on a range of issues, from mental and physical health needs to accessing benefits, education, training and more.

The charity worked with many partners during Covid-19, but said there were two partnering organisations who went above and beyond with the provisions they offered.

To say thank you, the charity has awarded 'Enabling Assessment Service London' and 'Lamington Group' with a Partner or Provider of the Year award, for their unwavering commitment.

Your Local Guardian: EASL EASL

Enabling Assessment Service London (EASL) is a team of highly qualified and experienced mental health professionals.

EASL attend targeted outreach shifts with SPEAR teams to see rough sleepers with suspected mental health challenges, and perform mental health assessments on the streets.

The assessment report, and their fierce advocacy, then assists in getting these clients the right mental health support through statutory agencies, when at times this has been difficult for clients to access them in the past.

In addition to this, they attend meetings with the charity to formulate care plans and give practical advice to workers on how to approach other clients who are showing signs of mental distress.

EASL’s Executive Director, Barney Wells, said: “We have been so pleased to work and to continue to work with SPEAR.

"As mental health professionals committed to supporting people who are socially marginalised, it makes all the difference to be working alongside SPEAR who share this focus.

"We really appreciate the dedication to the people they work with and the individual workers’ interest and willingness to reflect on how best to help.

"We are very grateful to be given this award and would also like to thank the Greater London Authority who fund the work we undertake with outreach teams in London.”

Your Local Guardian: LamingtonLamington

Lamington Group offers a variety of solutions for short, medium and long term stays in London and other UK cities. During the pandemic they provided single occupancy accommodation for rough sleepers, including people who were at high risk of infection needing to self-isolate.

They have been awarded with Apartment Provider of the Year.

As the pandemic eases and clients are moved on to more permanent accommodation, Lamington Group have offered a number of their long-let apartments, to help clients get back on their feet.

Lamington Group’s Managing Director, Robert Godwin, said: "As a family business who have been based in Hammersmith for over 50 years, we have always been heavily engaged with our local community.

"We are delighted to be recognised with this award and are pleased to have played a big part in the lives of many rough sleepers during such a difficult time.

"It has been a challenging yet rewarding experience for the team and it's been a pleasure working with SPEAR. We look forward to continuing to work together moving forward."

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