Connecting rough sleepers to local services

Frequently Asked Questions

StreetLink is a website, mobile phone app and telephone service through which people can take positive action when they see someone sleeping rough by sending an alert that connects that person to local services for support. 

StreetLink is an effective way to take positive action that has longer-term results. It can enable services to reach rough sleepers more quickly; this has positive impacts on their safety and wellbeing. 

StreetLink is a non-profit organisation managed and delivered by Homeless Link in partnership with St Mungo’s. It is principally funded by the UK Government (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), with additional funding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) and the Welsh Government. This funding does not represent any form of government endorsement of advertisements associated with StreetLink.

The member of the public provides details about the rough sleeper’s location and general appearance, which are sent to the correct, independent local homelessness outreach team, so they can locate the individual and connect them to support services. The person sending the alert initially receives details of the action the outreach team normally takes when they are told someone is sleeping rough, which will vary locally. StreetLink also finds out what has happened as a result of the alert within 14 days and, if requested, provides the member of the public with an update.

You can contact StreetLink via the website, mobile app and phone line and make an alert local authorities and street outreach services in England and Wales about people you have seen sleeping rough. 

The service can get busy so wherever possible we advise people to use either our website or mobile app, but if you cannot access the internet you can also get in touch via our phone line on 0300 500 0914.

StreetLink is not an emergency service. If you think someone needs urgent medical attention, please call 999.

Because the information you provide is sent to teams who will go out and look for the person you have seen at the location you give. If we do not have good details about the location, it can be extremely difficult to find the person.

In London this is usually the Rapid Response team, otherwise it will be another street outreach team who have been commissioned by the local council to provide a service in their area. Outreach workers are trained to offer support and will look at the options available to help people who are sleeping rough.
 

Rapid Response is a dedicated outreach team funded by the Mayor of London helping rough sleepers off the streets all year round. Rapid Response works closely with StreetLink but is a separate service and is not controlled by StreetLink. When members of the public use StreetLink to identify people they are concerned about, the Rapid Response team will usually be the first people to be alerted.
 
The team will operate in 24 London boroughs, with City Hall contributing additional funding to support local arrangements in the remaining 9, so that StreetLink alerts are responded to quickly and consistently in every area of London. 

Rapid Response is deployed in response to reports of someone sleeping rough made by Londoners using StreetLink, providing faster support to those on the street. By responding to new reports of rough sleepers, the Rapid Response team also provides the benefit of freeing up existing local outreach teams to focus on helping those who have been living on the streets for a long time and have additional support needs. 

Most outreach teams we refer to go out and night and during the early hours of the morning to find people who are rough sleeping. The frequency with which outreach teams operate varies, but in most areas of London they will be going out every night. For any people they are not able to reach that night, they will use the information from StreetLink alerts on their next shift.

In London, the Rapid Response team will usually make several attempts to locate or engage rough sleepers referred via StreetLink. If they locate someone sleeping rough but are unable to support them off the street, they will pass this on to local teams who continue to work with and engage people spending longer periods of time rough sleeping.

Every situation is different but usually when an outreach team finds a person sleeping rough, they will first undertake an assessment with them. They will then work with that person to look at solutions to try and end their rough sleeping; one of these options might be temporary accommodation, or referral into an assessment centre such as No Second Night Out. However, this work can sometimes take time, meaning that you might not see a change in the person's situation straight away even though support is being offered.

During extreme weather, councils and charities follow a Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).


What is SWEP?

SWEP aims to get people off the streets during periods of extreme weather, by providing immediate emergency shelter and support to anyone sleeping rough in London.


Is there a duty to operate SWEP?

There is no legal requirement, but local authorities have a moral obligation to ensure that there is provision in place for people sleeping rough during severe weather, to prevent deaths on the streets.


When is SWEP activated?

The aim of SWEP is to prevent harm and death during extreme weather. In London, the Greater London Authority triggers SWEP whenever the air temperature in any London borough is forecast to drop to zero degrees or below. When this happens, additional shelters and outreach services are activated across the whole of the capital. 


For more information about SWEP, see the Homeless Link and Greater London Authority’s guidance

Many outreach teams, including the Rapid Response team, go out at night and during the early hours of the morning to find people who are rough sleeping. But there are many other ways that rough sleepers can access help during the daytime. 

There are many day centres in the capital, with several in central London boroughs. A typical day centre offers food, showers, laundry, and some also offer support with housing advice, healthcare and gaining access to employment and education. 

For more information and to find a day centre in your area, search using the Homeless Link directory and select ‘Day centre’.

You can make a regular or one-off donation to StreetLink, which directly supports our work to connect vulnerable people to escape rough sleeping, or you can fundraise for us. If you want to gift your time rather than money and you are based in London, you can volunteer with StreetLink.

You can also become a StreetLink Champion, spreading the word about StreetLink in your local area. Lastly, you can volunteer in homelessness services throughout London, by finding charities on the Homeless Link or Team London websites. 

StreetLink doesn’t provide accommodation. StreetLink is a website, phone app and telephone line that acts as a referral system and a way of a connecting people who are rough sleeping to local services for support. If you are in need of accommodation advice you should speak to your local council. Alternatively, you can contact Shelter on 0808 800 4444, open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am-5pm at weekends.

Rough sleeping is defined as "People sleeping, about to bed down (sitting on/in or standing next to their bedding) or actually bedded down, in the open air (such as on the streets, in tents, doorways, parks, bus shelters or encampments). People in buildings or other places not designed for habitation".

Begging and rough sleeping don't always go hand-in-hand; not all people who are begging are rough sleeping and vice-versa. This does not mean people who are begging don't need help, as in most cases they do, but they might need a slightly different type of support from local services. 

If someone is begging on the streets during the day it may not necessarily be in the same place they sleep at night. This means when outreach teams go out at night with information from an alert made during the day, they may not be able to find the person you were concerned about. This does not mean that your alert to StreetLink is wasted - it's always better to get in touch about someone you think may be rough sleeping so that local services can provide support if needed.

Ultimately, we believe that it’s someone’s own decision whether to give money to someone but there are several other ways to make a difference that might have a longer-term positive impact. The best thing to do is to use the StreetLink service, which will link the person up with local charities that can provide the best type of support.

Across London the type of outreach team varies from borough-to-borough. Some have a service commissioned by the local authority, some also have the Mayor of London’s Rapid Response team, and all of these are delivered by a variety of different charities. A few councils have their own in-house outreach team. 

Wherever you live, you can find more about the street outreach response in your area by visiting the Atlas of homeless services, or by contacting your local council.
 

If you are having technical issues with the StreetLink website or Mobile App please send an email to informationteam@homelesslink.org.uk - please note that we cannot process StreetLink alerts sent through to this email address.