Stratford’s former rough sleeper engagement officer has been honoured for her outstanding work- despite being made redundant by Stratford District Council earlier this year.
Ann Johnson, who led the Stratford Link Project to help the homeless and vulnerable in the town, received a highly commended award at the Warwickshire Police and Crime Commissioner Awards earlier this month.
It recognises Ann’s dedication to helping people who often lead complex lives, have health needs or sometimes display challenging behaviour.
Despite her clear success supporting people, Stratford District Council confirmed last month that the rough sleeper engagement officer role had been ended.
At the time the council explained that since the closure of the Link Project drop-in centre in February on safety grounds, the authority has had to take a different approach to helping vulnerable people, which brought an end to the specific role Ann had been fulfilling.
However the council acknowledged that Ann was a great asset and helped many individuals into new lives off the street, during her time in the role.
Ann said: “I’m incredibly honoured to have received this award, I wasn’t always sure I was doing the right thing and when I was made redundant at the council it made me feel like that even more. However this award is an affirmation that I did make a difference and I was doing my best. I’d like to say thank you to the Community Safety Department at Stratford District Council who nominated me.”
A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: “Ann worked hard in her time with the District Council, initially in engaging with rough sleepers, and then taking on and expanding the role played by the Stratford Link Project.
“During this time, Ann’s work enabled the District Council to better understand the difficulties faced by this community, as well as minimising the potential for harm to those who were sleeping outside.
“She also worked tirelessly to ensure that those she supported were able to access all of the help they were entitled to. It was a direct result of Ann’s positive and dogged engagement over many months that a number of rough sleepers were assisted into accommodation, enabling them to have the best chance to start a new life away from the streets.”
Concerns have been raised by homelessness campaigners about the level of support currently available to rough sleepers and the homeless in Stratford following the drop-in centre’s closure, with some arguing that the council’s efforts to run homeless drop-in sessions on selected dates, is not a substitute.
In the long-term efforts are being made to support the town’s homeless, with the planned establishment of the town’s new Housing Plus Centre at the Fred Winter building on Henley Street and the recent launch of the council’s Meaningful Change campaign, which encourages donations to groups supporting the homeless.
Link Project drop-in sessions are currently taking place on Tuesday and Thursdays 1-3pm at the Baptist Church Hall in Payton Street.
They are being run by P3 with support from the district council and volunteers, and will continue until the end of the year.
Talks are ongoing about the location of these sessions in 2020.