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04 Feb 2014

Dan’s December Blog

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Dan Olney, deputy director of No Second Night Out (NSNO), talks about the success of the NSNO project as well as the difficulties it faces helping people new to rough sleeping away from London’s streets …

  • No Second Night Out (NSNO) is an essential service that helps new rough sleepers off the streets and into accommodation
  • Staff are fighting a constant battle to help people find the services they need, according to deputy director Dan Olney
  • He says it’s impossible to describe how hard staff work and what goes into helping rough sleepers off of the streets until you see it in action

I started my role as deputy director of No Second Night Out (NSNO) last year after having previously worked in a range of homeless services for the past 10 years. I was very excited to join a programme that I had read so much about and presumed I had the measure of. However, the reality of what goes into NSNO is so striking and compelling that until I saw it in action, I didn’t truly appreciate the half of it.

I could tell you that an A&E department on a Saturday night is a busy and chaotic place to be. I know this because I’ve read about it in the papers and I’ve see it on the news. However, unless I’d see it first-hand, could I really have a definitive view or full appreciation of it? Probably not.

This is also what I think about NSNO. In my first week in the job, I sat in one of the three assessment hubs and saw the office door flying open constantly, staff and clients coming and going, phones ringing, files going out, forms being filled, enquiries being made, partner agencies coming and going and a pace of work that felt urgent, complex and challenging… I also saw it being tackled by a dedicated and relentless staff team who work 24/7. I knew their roles were tough but seeing what goes into remedying the challenges of homelessness and rough sleeping was refreshing, eye opening and inspiring.

There have been headlines in the press over the past year about the numbers of rough sleepers increasing. Delve into the articles further and you may spot a small ‘tip of the hat’ to the reasons and facts behind those stats and the positive impact NSNO has had but my frustration is that the headline is what most people will remember. But what does that article or headline lead you to know about the situation even if you have read it in full? What do you really understand?

You can’t know until you know that the numbers of rough sleepers increasing is a statistic that, to some degree, actually offers hope. Indeed over the past few years, strides have been made in the recording and understanding of the numbers as well as the creation of a national rough sleeper reporting line (StreetLink – 0300 500 0914) and a greater overall focus on the issue. Any appreciation of this is hard to truly realise until you have seen, in action, those workers we partner with who are involved in finding and supporting rough sleepers. The few lines in the press about the positive impact of NSNO may lead you to look at our website and see the impressive stats but you really won’t know or appreciate the magnitude until you see it in action and see the relentless effort of our staff.

This is why I would happily welcome and encourage anyone to visit one of our hubs because I’m sure you would leave with the same admiration for the staff that I do and, more importantly, find an appreciation for the complexities that are put up in the face of rough sleepers and that can keep them on the street. I hope that anyone who visits us leaves with the desire and the passion to do something to help, whether that’s by volunteering, raising money, becoming a partner or, simply, calling StreetLink and helping a rough sleeper off the streets.


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