Connection Support are delighted their Step Down Housing service in Oxfordshire has been shortlisted for a Homeless Link Award in the category, Promoting Partnerships and Collaborative Working.

The annual awards, run by the national homelessness membership charity, Homeless Link, pay tribute to the best of the homelessness and supported housing sector, and this year recognised services for their work supporting people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The winners and commended organisations were revealed at an online celebratory event on the evening of 10 December.

Over 100 entries were received across the six awards categories, all of which demonstrated high levels of innovation and showcased the impactful work that is being carried out across the homelessness sector at this challenging time.

Step Down Housing provides short-term housing following hospital discharge for homeless patients who do not want to return to the streets or for people whose home is no longer suitable for them.

Deb Morris, Operations Manager for Step Down Housing explains how the service has had to adapt during COVID:Embedded Housing Workers are assigned a hospital and pre-COVID medical staff would shadow them to learn about the complexities of housing for homeless patients. During COVID-19, the demand placed on the ward staff meant the Workers stepped up to liaise directly with patients to help the patients and in turn the hospital.”

Deb went on to tell us about a client the team had supported during the first lockdown: “Martin was discharged to the Step Down House following an admission to the Churchill Hospital. He lost his job when he was admitted to hospital and as the job came with accommodation, he was left homeless. He could not return to the same line of work to solve his housing need due to ongoing health conditions. He was waiting on an operation that was on hold due to COVID-19.

The Step Down team supported Martin in making a successful Universal Credit claim. He had no local connection anywhere, so a homeless application was made. Due to his health condition and medical needs, it would be difficult to accommodate him in a duty placement due to lack of rooms with an ensuite bathroom. A private rented room was sourced by a housing officer for our client. Our workers helped with the tenancy agreement, updated the Universal Credit claim to include the housing element and moved Martin into his new home.”

Chris Keating, Deputy CEO & Operations Director said: “Working in partnership with teams in other organisations to seek successful outcomes for clients is key to the success of Step Down Housing. So it’s very fitting for the team to be shortlisted for this Homeless Link award which recognises the importance of collaborations. Our Embedded Housing Workers work closely with hospital staff and liaise with housing officers and other homeless agencies to help patients continue their recovery with care in the community. Pulling together quickly and efficiently to help vulnerable patients start to turn their life around.”

Step Down TeamDeb Morris praised her team, saying: “The Step Down Housing team have worked throughout the pandemic providing an essential service to enable both the beds in the hospital settings to be used in the most productive way whilst ensuring discharged homeless patients are accommodated while they recuperate, and their health improves. The team are winners already in my eyes but being shortlisted in the Homeless Link Awards is a wonderful recognition for their commitment and passion for what they do to improve the lives of the clients that they support. I would like to thank them for their continued dedication and hard work.”

Rick Henderson, Chief Executive at Homeless Link, comments:2020 has been a very difficult year for many, but particularly for people who have no place to call home. Homelessness services have risen to each new challenge, adapting and innovating to ensure that the people they work with have been kept safe and supported at this unprecedented time.

“We were delighted that our awards were able to honour Connection Support. It is important that their truly exceptional work is recognised and that it is enabled to continue throughout the pandemic beyond, helping to end homelessness for good.”