There were around 40 people split into 10 teams. I was a driver for my team. The leader was Belinda who works for a Newham Charity and the other team member was Tony who has "lived experience" of sleeping rough in Newham. Tony and I both jointly chair the Newham Homeless Action Group.
The National count takes place at the same time all over the UK but Newham has been carrying out local counts every 2 months in order to satisfy external funding of homelessness projects.
After being fully briefed on the purpose and methodology of the count (as well as showing at all times respect for rough sleepers and our health and safety) we set off. Our team was given 9 sites in East Ham which in the past had been used by rough sleepers.
We managed to visit all 9 sites by about 2.30am and came across and spoke to two separate rough sleepers. They were offered emergency accommodation (both politely refused) and arrangements made for outreach workers to offer further support in the morning.
It is on the one hand, quite incredible, to be speaking to people sleeping on outdoor concrete slabs on a cold wet November night who then decline the offer of a warm, dry bed for the night. However, the push back was that that emergency accommodation for rough sleepers was often in places that were dangerous with violent drug abusers. Hopefully, our outreach workers will be able to persuade rough sleepers that our emergency assessment centres are safe.