One of the support workers came to me with the following situation:
One particular client who’s lived in Leeds all his life, has been rough sleeping and in and out of jail for some years. Both his parents were alcoholics and he was in care from the age of 10-15. From age 10 he’s had a solvent abuse problem which continues today. He approached me on Christmas Day 2008 and asked if I could get him somewhere to live because of the cold weather. He told me he’d been in hospital a couple of days ago and had collapsed in the street. I rang the emergency duty housing team and explained his situation – that he has substance misuse issues and had been in hospital. I was told that they couldn’t do anything because he “didn’t tick the boxes”.
On 20th January this man attended our Soup Run. He told me he’d been feeling suicidal and had a history of self harm. He also told me he had DVT in his leg. He asked to try again for somewhere to live because he couldn’t stand sleeping in the cold anymore and was concerned he would get arrested because it’s illegal to sleep rough. I referred him out of hours and this time they accepted, probably because of the self harm issues expressed. They agreed to put him in emergency accommodation for one night and for him to report at Housing Advice and Prevention the following day.
The next day this service user rang me and asked to meet at HAP. We went and waited in total 4.5 hours there. An in-depth assessment was carried out and the client told them about his history of self harm, his DVT, how he’d been rough sleeping for weeks and how he wasn’t currently accessing medical care or support for his mental health or substance misuse issues. HAP made the decision that because he wasn’t accessing specialist support services there wasn’t enough evidence of these support needs and that not housing him “wouldn’t affect him detrimentally”.
They told us that it’s up to him to bring in more evidence of his support needs. They advise he go to St George’s Crypt from which had already informed them he is temporarily barred, he needs to make an appointment there for a review to get this lifted. Emergency hostels won’t take him now that HAP have decided he is not priority. I rang Shelter for legal advice but no solicitors were available until the next day so the best I could do was to suggest that he try to get an appointment at the Crypt for a review and that I would leave a message for him at a resource centre the following day when I had spoken to Shelter. Despite all his efforts he had no choice but to sleep rough until further notice.
This is a great example of one of the major challenges our service users face. This guy is probably not a model citizen and has made a few bad choices and wrong turns in his life. but this short piece of information clearly demonstrates that there are past and present ongoing reasons for this. I view myself and all the team here at Simon to be quite compassionate, but even if you are not it’s obvious that if this guy doesn’t get some support with his issues they are going to get worse, and this will not only impact on him but also on society.
Yet he is so chaotic that he cannot access the support that he needs to begin to get these issues under control. He desperatley needs some stability in order to begin the process. Housing would be the perfect starting point. But he cannot access the housing because he is not accessing other support which will provide evidence of his support needs. But he can’t access other support until he has the stability of housing…