Sometimes homelessness and some issues that are associated with homelessness can be addressed by very simple things. I’ve met hundreds of homeless people whose situation and circumstances have been turned around by very basic pieces of support work. I would say that 90% of all homeless people I have ever met have been supported out of homelessness by simple phone calls, ticking boxes on online forms or putting people in touch with the right person to help them.
Of course some clients can be much more complex and require intensive support and guidance as they are entrenched with complex issues. Over the last 3 years I have documented a considerable rise in the number of young people becoming homeless, it is crucially important that all services do the simple things swiftly in order to address the young person’s homelessness. If this can’t be done there is only one way the young person is going. They are going to become the entrenched.
I have been providing outreach services for some time now, this is a time consuming process and I would really love to do more of it, but it consumes so much time that at the moment it just is not feasible for me to do so on any kind of regular basis. Outreach workers are an essential link in developing relationships with people who are sleeping rough and identifying the simple to fix clients. This coming year I very much hope to expand our outreach services considerably and have been working on a few ideas that just might achieve this.
The following are some typical case studies of how small basic pieces of support can go a long way to addressing bigger issues.
I first supported Rupert whilst I was a social work student nearly 6 years ago, during one of our outreach visits we found him sleeping under a bridge, he came to The Wellspring and I supported him to apply and eventually move into his own accommodation. When I returned to the project as a full time member of staff around a year later, Rupert had been evicted from his property and was rough sleeping again. We started the long process of re-applying for housing and he again moved into his own accommodation. Rupert suffers from depression and during his darker day’s drinks heavily, disengages from all services, and becomes at risk of eviction. During the past 4 years I have taken the time to learn his pattern of behaviour, identify his triggers and from this support him to prevent any further evictions. This can involve anything from outreach, practical support such as new benefit claim and emotional support. Rupert is currently in employment; becoming more independent and has recently saved up and bought a car, a prime of example of how long term intervention can break the ‘cycle’.
Tom found himself homeless following a relationship breakdown, he accessed The Wellspring and was referred to hostel accommodation, an incident occurred and Tom was evicted, he set up a tent next to the canal. Tom accepted responsibility for his actions that lead to the eviction and was extremely remorseful. Tom was also excluded from the housing register, everything; to him seemed hopeless. I felt quite strongly that the decision to exclude him from the housing register had been made without a full over view of the facts, there was also an element of inequality as others involved in the incident had since been given a second chance. Tom saw no point in appealing, he was in completed despair, his tent was repeatedly slashed and his belongings stolen. With nothing to lose Tom decided appealing was his only option, I supported him to write a letter and liaised with housing, his case was heard by a panel, his appeal was accepted and his housing application made live. Two weeks later Tom successfully bid and signed for his own flat. Tom has now moved in and is currently in the process of decorating his new home.
The legal high ‘Spice’ has been a particularly prevalent drug used by our client group over the past 12 months, many report using it as a substitute for class A substances such as heroin. Spice is potent, addictive and can have an extreme adverse impact on an individual’s behaviour. Following a period of homelessness after eviction from his property Luke was finally supported into temporary accommodation. This was massive step forward for him as he had spent a long time sleeping in a shed like structure in some woods, during this time he had used spice to cope with his situation. Luke settled well into his accommodation and engaged with staff, one night he used spice, his behaviour became bizarre and erratic, and he was immediately asked to leave. Luke was dismayed at how he had behaved, having no recollection of his actions and realising that potentially he could lose everything. I had known Luke for four years and knew this behaviour was very out of character, he wanted so desperately to change. I phoned the accommodation and advocated on his behalf, pleading his case to the manager, the housing manager agreed to give Luke a second chance, moving him to a different site He progressed well there and didn’t smoke spice again. Luke told me he never felt himself again after the spice episode, it’s frightening that something that can be bought legally in a shop can have such a prolonged, and potentially devastating effect on someone