"A lot of the role is about trust - we're there for the long haul with people."  

That is the pledge from Mikey Silver, one of City of York Council's rough sleeper navigators.

This year, the council is due to publish its strategy for the next five years for preventing homelessness and rough sleeping. 

The rough sleeper navigators have been introduced to help support those on the streets into services that are already available, including accommodation, breakfast centres and support services.

The council is using £260,000 of extra government funding over the next two years to expand its rough sleepers service.

It comes after the local authority announced last September that it would not be extending the Salvation Army’s £95,000-a-year contract to deliver rough sleeping services in York when it expired on September 30.

On Friday last week, The Press joined navigator Mikey and Cllr Michael Pavlovic, of York's Labour-run city council, to see the new rough sleeper service in action.

Mikey said: "A lot of the role is about trust.

"We're there for the long haul with people. Once you build those trusting relationships with people those barriers start breaking down.

"We're trying to break the cycle for people."

York Press: Navigator Mikey Silver outside James HouseNavigator Mikey Silver outside James House (Image: Harry Booth)

Navigators spend their days between 9am and 5pm patrolling the streets, meeting with rough sleepers, having conversations and signposting them to the services they need.

Mikey explained he's often booking doctors appointments for people or cycling across the city to check in on his clients.


Along with the typical day shift, navigators also do an early morning walk at 5am each day to contact rough sleepers and suggest services to them, such as Carecent - a drop-in centre at St Saviourgate, York - or one of the accommodation locations.

Mikey stressed the importance of doing his work outside on the street, adding: "People see the council as this daunting institution, but when we're out and about and they can see our faces we can connect with them."

One of Mikey's clients is a 36-year-old man from York, who wished to remain anonymous. He has battled addiction his whole life along with stints in prison. More recently, he's had to have his left leg amputated as a result of the abscesses developed by heroin abuse.


He told The Press: "I've been in that revolving door of addiction.

"Services in York have never really had an impact like what these (navigators) do.

"They actually come out and engage with you. I could've had a different worker and I wouldn't want to be here talking to you, but Mikey here is like my mate and I want to do things for him."

The man now lives at James House, a temporary council accommodation, while he waits for his own property to move in to, as the next step in his recovery.

The man first started taking heroin at 14. Since meeting Mikey he says he has managed the longest period of his adult life without drugs, or going to prison.

Tragically, in September 2022, the man's fiancée died. He said: "I was in a bad place."

Mikey witnessed the rough sleeper go through five overdoses in seven days, which has given him a permanent heart condition.

York Press: Cllr Pavlovic in the kitchen of James HouseCllr Pavlovic in the kitchen of James House (Image: Megan Rule)

Looking back, the man said: "He could've watched me die."

The man added that back then he would never have imagined would he would still be alive today and rebuilding his life

"If someone had told me about being here now when I got out of hospital I would've laughed at you," he said.

Fifteen people were sleeping on the streets of York the last time official counts were conducted and released in November.

City of York council's executive member for  housing, planning and safer communities, Cllr Michael Pavlovic, spoke of the value of navigators like Mikey. He said: "It's really making a significant difference.

"I get regular feedback from them about what's happening, it's why I chose to publish the data about how many homeless people there are in York - I felt it's really important that we tell people."