Preserving resilience with No First Night Out

Monday, 10 July 2017 - 10:12am

The passing of the Homelessness Reduction Act and injections of cash into prevention models across the country have ensured that the work of the East London No First Night Out project continues to be timely and relevant. 

No First Night Out (NFNO) is a tri-borough initiative between Tower Hamlets, Hackney and the City of London, which aims to prevent people from becoming street homeless by offering intensive work and interventions to either keep people in their existing place or to identify accommodation options for them. The model works by identifying those people most at risk of imminent rough sleeping, so will aim to help those who are not owed housing under a statutory duty, and will also take account of other risk factors such as the lack of social networks, or a history of health problems. 

One of the themes of the NFNO project is the idea of capitalising on someone’s innate sense of resilience, protecting it by ensuring they don’t ever sleep rough and utilising it to make sure that accommodation offers are sustainable.

Kath Dane, Tower Hamlets’ Rough Sleeping lead, and I were asked as representatives of the project’s Steering Group to present a workshop at this year’s Homeless Link ‘Under One Roof’ conference.

At these events, it’s often very easy to stick to a tight structure, deliver up a narrative and take a few questions. However, we were keen to allow space for delegates to ask the questions they wanted answers to. We gave our thoughts on what had worked, what needed developing and our hopes for the future, but what was really interesting were the ideas that came up from the floor.

What emerged was a discussion around what resilience actually is, and what it might look like to an NFNO worker or a Housing Options Officer charged with identifying someone on the cusp of rough sleeping.

The NFNO typology goes some way into defining the cohorts, which were –  at the time of the research –  most at risk of rough sleeping in the three boroughs. These were identified by interviewing people who had slept rough for the first time and were referred to one of the No Second Night Out Hubs. A key variable in those cohort definitions were the levels of resilience people had.

But what is a ‘good’ level of resilience, and what does it look like? What makes one person able to carry on after a major life event such as bereavement, and another less able to do so? So much preventative work is based around pre-empting a human being’s response to life-changing events, and often, this is reliant on a person’s sense of strength and hardiness.    

There are some tangible indicators for rough sleeping, of course. A history of poor mental health increases the risk, as does misuse of alcohol or other substances. A healthy support network of friends and family not only provides options for a place to stay, but also helps people to know that they are not alone.

People have wildly varying responses to traumatic or sudden life events, and the strength of NFNO’s model is in its partnership driven approach. This approach, which draws in organisations as diverse as libraries, Jobcentre Plus and health centres, ensures that people who might be vulnerable to homelessness and rough sleeping are identified in the places they might visit at a time of transition, and are given support before they reach a point of crisis.

There are always more organisations that we can work with, and one of the ongoing priorities for the NFNO project is to ensure that we have links with a broad and effective body of partner agencies, to ensure that people always have access to the care and support they and ultimately prevent them from experiencing that ‘first night’ out on the streets.  

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Sabrina Pathan

Partnership manager (London)

Sabrina works as Homeless Link's partnership manager across London.