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Unite Students helps Bristol’s homeless – 08 September 2020

8 September 2020

Unite Students helps Bristol’s homeless by supporting Street Intervention Service

  • Unite Students has provided a city centre office and is funding a substance misuse worker
  • Case Study: Drug addict who drank 10 bottles of wine a day is now off the streets

Unite Students, the UK’s largest provider of student accommodation, is helping to reduce the number of people living rough on the city’s streets.

With headquarters in Bristol, the FTSE 250 firm has provided Bristol’s Street Intervention Service (SIS), with an office in the city centre and is funding a full-time substance misuse worker.

Unite Students was looking for additional ways to support Bristol, the city where the company started life nearly 30 years ago. The SIS team is now operating out of their new office.

The SIS is a multi-agency initiative developed by the Streetwise Team in 2018. Streetwise first launched in Bristol in 2002. The team assesses needs in five key areas; accommodation, substance and alcohol misuse, behaviour, finances and health before bringing in support to try to tackle the root causes of anti-social behaviour.

Since March, and the outbreak of Covid-19, the SIS has helped get more than 200 people in Bristol onto prescriptions for methadone, a heroin substitute. And it has helped many others who were dependent on alcohol to begin detox programmes.

In July alone, the SIS team made 33 referrals for housing support and 27 referrals to support individuals with substance abuse issues.


Ali Hastings, Unite Students’ Social Impact Manager, said:

“We are delighted to be able to support this great initiative, which is assisting those who need help most in our community, whilst also helping to make the city’s streets safer for everyone. As a responsible business, our priority is to do the right thing for its students, staff and people living in our communities.

“The SIS team has made real difference to the lives of many people in Bristol, particularly those who rough sleep, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with them over the coming months.”

Councillor Paul Smith, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, said:

“We are really pleased to have partnered with Unite Students. It has enabled us to fund a Substance Misuse Worker, who has been able to get out there and support some of the most hard to reach members of society and in turn reduce the anti-social behaviour brought about by addiction.

“Unite Students has also provided the team with an amazing working space. This has proven invaluable, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, as it has given them a safe, central base to work from 24/7. This has enabled them to work as an effective multi-agency team to provide positive outcomes for the individuals they work with and the wider society.”

Case Study

Street Intervention Service workers first came across a street homeless man who was persistently begging to fund this drug and alcohol habit in January 2020.

At that time, the man who we’re calling K to protect his identity, was using heroin six or seven times a day and drinking between seven and 10 bottles of wine a day.

While street homeless, he was supported with a methadone prescription which he continues to maintain.

In April, he was moved into temporary accommodation under the Covid-19 housing measures.

K’s alcohol detox started in May. His consumption was reduced by four units every four days. His GP was also contacted to arrange prescription for anti-depressants and injectable thiamine, which is administered to people who have a severe vitamin B deficiency.

K’s street begging has now stopped. He is currently drinking around a bottle of wine a day and is using heroin about once a week.

SIS is prepared to provide ongoing support for K and referrals to other medical and psychological services for further help once his detox programme comes to a planned end.


For further information, please contact:

Unite Students

Unite press office

Tel: +44 7754 749 301