Street Buddies is a peer mentoring programme, based in Westminster, made up of volunteers who were once rough sleepers. They help people still on the street to make use of support services and build the confidence and skills they need to leave the streets for good. The programme provides opportunities for both the volunteers and the rough sleepers they help to transform their lives permanently.
For David, who had been on the streets for almost forty years, the idea that anyone could offer him a way out of homelessness seemed impossible until support worker Gary, a former rough sleeper himself, spotted him.
Gary says: “In my job as a part of the Street Buddies team I am able to use my own experience when I make contact with rough sleepers. David had refused help from many outreach agencies, but once I won his trust I could work with colleagues to get him into one of our specialist care and support centres, where we could help him look at the support he needed.”
Gate Buddies provide peer support for people at risk of re-offending or homelessness on release from prison. Ex-offenders who have successfully integrated back into the community can volunteer as Buddies and get training on a number of relevant skills, such as safeguarding vulnerable adults; professional boundaries; case load planning and project managing; addiction awareness and support; self-esteem; and setting personal goals.
They meet detainees on the day of their release, and make sure that they have access to a range of personal, therapeutic, financial, and training advice. Gate Buddies Trainee Project Assistant, former prisoner Ken, says: “When you come out of prison, a Buddy will act as your advocate and be on your side. They’ll help you find a place to stay, connect you to the right services and put in place what you need so you don’t end up back in prison.”
The service was set up in Greater Manchester in 2014 by Riverside Care and Support, using funding from Church Homeless Trust and the government’s Homelessness Transition Fund with Homeless Link. Compared to the national average of 50%, only 6% of those who take part in Gate Buddies have gone on to re-offend.
Costs for basics
Welcome packs of toiletries, underwear, socks, and basic foodstuffs are provided for people when they first move into a scheme from the streets.
Identity papers such as replacement birth certificates and driving licences are funded so that people can access health care, benefits, training, and work.
Clothing for individuals who often have nothing more than what they are standing up in when they arrive at a hostel. As little as £50 can provide someone with smart clothing for an interview, a warm winter coat, or specialised uniform for a new job.
Living expenses for migrants who are waiting for their asylum claims to be processed and cannot work or claim benefits. We provide this funding through Housing Justice’s Migrants’ Destitution Fund.
Travel costs cover bus or train fares to attend appointments, college, volunteering opportunities, and job interviews. We also pay for travel to reconnect with friends and family.