In Leeds, a new initiative called “homeless mapping” has been introduced, aimed at ensuring homeless and vulnerable people in the city get the help they need.
Led by Unity in Poverty Action and Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, it involves 10 organisations and nine churches offering practical help such as medication, food and befriending services.
John Walsh works for the York Street Health Practice, which provides medical support for vulnerable and homeless people in the city.
He says it's the first time so many different groups have become involved in a project like this:
The idea was to have a list of names and addresses of groups and organisations so that from Monday to Sunday vulnerable and homeless people always had someone to go to.
We knew when agencies â€¨closed at five o'clock on an evening that community and faith-based groups were opening their doors to provide very basic things like food, clothing, or someone to talk to.
In the past, if someone came to see us and said they had no food then we would ring round, we might be successful and we might not be.
Now with the map we know who is most likely to have food and also be able to offer some care and support.
It's very rare for people to [make steps to recovery] on their own, they need support to help turn their lives around and these organisations on the homeless map provide that and they often provide it at a time when a person is at their most vulnerable.
In the past, these groups operated independently, but Walsh says by working together the different statutory bodies and voluntary groups know who to contact when somebody comes to them in need of help.
It's about creating what he calls a “coalition of care” to address the needs of the city's homeless population, providing basic needs like food and clothing, as well as being a place to find friendship, support and feel safe.
Dave Paterson, a project co-ordinator with Unity in Poverty Action, says people often have complex needs and admits there are fears about the potential impact of future government cuts:
There are concerns about how the welfare reforms will affect the most vulnerable. I heard recently that we are only 15 per cent into the cuts and they are going to continue until 2016, so that is a concern.
What we will see if the economy doesn't pick up is more people from better backgrounds who end up being homeless.
The positive thing in Leeds is there are a lot of services providing help and support and the map is part of that, so if anyone does become homeless today there are options for them.
The hope is that by working more closely with each other care providers and voluntary groups can get homeless people off the streets and making a positive contribution to society.
Source: Yorkshire Post