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Unique wellbeing initiative is helping rough sleepers accept support

A unique health and wellbeing initiative launched by Chichester District Council and Everyone Active is helping rough sleepers accept and access support.

Cllr David Betts and Everyone Active

Over 50 people have taken part in the initiative over the last year, which uses physical exercise - including walk and talk sessions; gym sessions; and even swimming - to help clients boost their wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.

The sessions also provide clients with the opportunity have conversations about other parts of their lives where they may want support.

One client went from being totally inactive, to participating in 60 minutes of exercise twice a week. As a result, it has given him more confidence and self-esteem, which has helped him socialise and feel part of the community.

"The project is all about recognising the benefits that becoming more active can bring," says Ben Polhill, Activity and Wellbeing Manager at Everyone Active, who is leading the project.

"We're here to chat to clients, some of them come to us a couple of times a week and it's nice for individuals to have the distraction and have a bit of focus and routine away from life on the streets. We also have passes so that clients can use the services at the leisure centre on a regular basis.

"A huge part of the project is about helping to boost clients' mental wellbeing and their general confidence and self-esteem. One of the activities that we run is a walk and talk session, which is really beneficial for people's mental health. It also helps open up conversations around other areas of their life where they may want to make changes.

"It helps give a bit of structure to clients' week, but we never ask too much of participants at any one time - when they are ready to talk, we are here for them."

Ben's team are also keen to ensure the project is delivered in different locations, not just at leisure centres.

"We are working with Stonepillow and other agencies to support clients in different settings, as it can be quite intimidating for people to go to a leisure centre if they have never been to one before or not been to one for a long time. So, we are keen to offer alternative sites. Just like the council's rough sleeper outreach work, this is a bespoke service, and each person will want to interact with the service differently."

The project has received funding from the Department of Levelling Up until April 2025, and Cllr David Betts, Cabinet Member for Housing and Revenues and Benefits at Chichester District Council, says it's making a huge difference.

"As an athletics coach for young people, I know first-hand the positive effects that access to exercise can have on an individual's general wellbeing.

"What's fantastic is that through this initiative, we have seen people go from being totally inactive, to participating in activities throughout the week. As a result, it has provided those benefitting from the scheme with more confidence; helped to boost their self-esteem; and improved their general wellbeing.

"It's also helped people to better integrate into the community, meet new people and feel more empowered to engage with other services - not just from our council, but also from a variety of other agencies and organisations. We know that not everyone will want to engage with our services straight away, and so this is a great way of building relationships with a variety of organisations who can offer support.

"Not only do our rough sleeper team go out each day, making sure that rough sleepers know about the support that is available, but we are also committed to increasing the temporary accommodation that we own. Two years ago, the council expanded its existing temporary accommodation by adding an additional building to provide a further 17 flats. This has meant that we have been better able to assist people and provide the most cost-effective way of delivering this support. One of our key aims is to expand our temporary accommodation even further to meet the growing demand that we are seeing."

Due to the success of the wellbeing scheme, it has been extended to those who may be at risk of homelessness or who are struggling with the current cost of living crisis.

"We know how challenging the current climate is for many people and so supporting people in this way is a key priority for us. This can also be seen through our Supporting You team, who are there to help people identify and access the range of support that is available to them, and our Social Prescribing team, who help people access a range of local non-clinical services to help meet their social and emotional needs. What is fantastic is to see the positive impact that all of these schemes are having, especially on those who need our help the most."

Date of release: 13 February 2024

Reference: 4307