Reaching out to help rough sleepers on our streets

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee chat to a rough sleeper in a bus shelter on South Parade in Skegness. ANL-170413-111227001
P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee chat to a rough sleeper in a bus shelter on South Parade in Skegness. ANL-170413-111227001

Deep in the bushes near a Skegness hotel, a 47-year-old man stirred from his sleeping bag, sheltering from the chilling early morning rain under a plastic sheet.

It was just before 7am and 3C but the friendly voices of the P3 outreach workers were a welcome sound for the rough sleeper.

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee discover evidence of rough sleepers in the dunes. ANL-170413-111208001

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee discover evidence of rough sleepers in the dunes. ANL-170413-111208001

“I’ve been living in a tent off and on for six years,” Wayne told us. “I’m a chef and walk to Skegness from Nottingham and try to beat my record of 20 hours.

“I set off at 6pm and sleep in a field in Boston for a couple of hours then carry on to Skegness.

“But this time I fell down a manhole in Lincoln and had to have a temporary pot on my foot.

“I’ve got a big trainer to cover it but my problem’s been getting to Boston hospital to get it seen to properly.”

We do what we can. Being homeless isn’t a life choice. No-one says at 13 that in 20 years time they want to be sleeping rough in Skegness

P3 outreach support senior worker Andy Lee

It may not have seemed it at that moment, but Wayne is one of the lucky ones.

Immediately a priority to be found accommodation due to his injury, a meeting at Witham Lodge run by the Salvation Army later that morning had the promise of a good outcome.

For the others sleeping rough along the coast that morning there is only hope.

I met P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and senior worker Andy Lee at 6am at McDonald’s in Skegness.

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee search the dunes at the north end of Skegness. ANL-170413-111150001

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson and seniour worker Andy Lee search the dunes at the north end of Skegness. ANL-170413-111150001

Their morning at the office in Lincoln had started at 5am, where five outreach support workers are based to cover 3,000 square miles of the country. Two P3 workers try to visit the coast once or twice a week - two others cover Boston and Sleaford.

Since the charity was established in Lincolnshire in 2015, 320 people have been helped off the streets, with P3 working in partnership with other agencies such as East Lindsey District Council, the police and the Blue Light Engagement Group who deal with alcohol issues. The Baptist Church run Store House on North Parade, which provides a foodbank and hot meals for homeless, also makes referrals to P3.

As the number of people sleeping rough is set to soar with the onset of the summer season and hopes of finding seasonal work, a cup of coffee is the boost P3 support 
workers need, never knowing who or what they may find as they search for rough sleepers.

Andy said: “In Skegness it’s very seasonal as to how many people are sleeping rough and can vary from three to 14 people.”

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson speaks to a homeless person who has injured his leg. ANL-170413-111055001

P3 outreach support worker Lauren Gilbertson speaks to a homeless person who has injured his leg. ANL-170413-111055001

Lauren said; “The numbers usually go up with the start of the season. People may have nice memories of visiting Skegness with their families when they were young and co me here for a new start. But it doesn’t always work out. They all have their own stories to tell.”

New legislation on benefits is also a factor for the rise in homelessness, where ‘as a punishment’ money is stopped if a meeting with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is missed, said Andy.

“Debts can soon spiral and people can find themselves on the streets. We can help them get back on track and with budgeting to stay that way,” said Andy

“It gets more difficult if drugs and alcohol became a factor, which is often the case here. But there is help out there and we can put them in the right direction.”

Our first visit was to an area of beach at the north end of Skegness, where evidence of rough sleepers could still be seen in the dunes.

Then it was on to beach huts behind Pier Field, where another success story began two years ago. Andy said: “We first met this rough sleeper two years ago, clearly with mental health problems. With the help of mental health services, 18 months later he has moved into his own place in Horncastle. This is what makes our job worthwhile.”

The story was very different at a bus shelter on South Parade, where two rough sleepers known to Lauren and Andy were huddled inside their sleeping bags, hiding their faces from passers-by.

“What time is it?” asked one of them. “I bet it’s not even 7am.” The other said: “I was going to give you a call but I lost your number.”

After reiterating the support on offer Andy said: “Here we have one guy sleeping rough after a relationship break-up. The other had been in accommodation but it didn’t work out and we are hoping to get him back at Witham Lodge.

”But we can only help those who want to be helped and that may involve reconnecting them with local authorities outside the county if they don’t come from the area.

“We also recently managed to get a Polish guy who had been living in the dunes a home.

”We do what we can. Being homeless isn’t a life choice. No-one says at 13 that in 20 years time they want to be sleeping rough in Skegness.”

Anyone who sees someone sleeping rough can report this to P3 on 0808 281 0280 or email streetoutreach@p3charity.org