Archive for April, 2010

Karen is reaching the end of her custodial sentence and is due to be released from prison soon.  One of the reasons she was given a custodial sentence was to ensure that a mental health assessment was carried out whilst she was in prison as this has been impossible in the past due to Karen’s chaotic lifestyle.  So far, she has been seen by a mental health nurse after one of her many suicide attempts but has not been referred to a psychiatrist.  Because her release date is imminent the prison has decided it will be up to her GP to refer her to a psychiatrist upon her release.   My worry is that Karen will not be able to engage with any mental health services once she is released as she will find it difficult to abstain from alcohol long enough for an assessment to be carried out.  Unless Karen is assessed upon the day of her release I don’t think it will happen. 

She has been referred to Social Services as she is a vulnerable adult but the referral has been refused as apparently she isn’t vulnerable enough.  One of the many challenges that Karen faces upon her release from custody is that she has such complex needs she will require support from a number of different agencies and co-ordinating this care can be challenging.  Some of the services that have worked with Karen in the past are reluctant to work with her due to her challenging behaviour.  This is frustrating as not only does it limit the support available to Karen but it also reaffirms the negative views that she has about services and herself; that people won’t give her another chance because they don’t really care what happens to her so why should she care. 

Currently, I’m working very closely with a couple of agencies to try and get Karen some suitable accommodation upon her release from custody, we’ve exhausted a lot of avenues as she is classed as “unsuitable”  but we’ve got a few days left and will keep trying until we find somewhere.  My fear is that Karen will go off the radar if she doesn’t have accommodation, and we will have missed the opportunity to help support her release from custody as a fresh start for her.  If we can provide her with suitable accommodation and she has a chance of some stability then it will be easier for her to try to engage with the other services (such as alcohol services, mental health support and her GP) that are an essential part of her support package.  If we are unable to find somewhere suitable then, potentially, there will be an extremely vulnerable female sleeping rough upon her release from prison.  This clearly brings with it a host of problems and we will do whatever we can to prevent this happening.



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4th World TV Project

We have been working on a new project – 4th world TV – with Lippy People and ST George’s Crypt.  The idea is to get people from the ‘4th world’ to tell their stories on camera that focuses on whatever they want to talk about.  Our vision is to give a voice to the voiceless and all the benefits that this can bring around educating the public, informing policy making and improving services.  The aim is also to create an independent Community Interest Company that is staffed by people who have a background of living in the 4th World.

The website is now up and running, check out some of the films that we have already made at www.4thworld.tv

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New Worker’s Thoughts

We have recently recieved funding from FMG Support a fantastic private sector organisation based in Huddersfield.  They sponsored one of our volunteers last year and this year have funded a worker to extend our great services into Huddersfield.  Sally – the new worker – had this to say about her introduction to Simon after her first week with us:

My background has been rooted in the social care sector for the last few years. I have previously worked in Supported housing and advisory roles as well as volunteering with substance misuse and HIV support agencies. During this time I have worked with people from all walks of life, each person a unique individual and each with their own needs and aspirations. Although support work is often emotionally tough, it is hugely rewarding to see an individual take even the smallest steps to improving their lives.

I had been aware of Simon on the Streets for some time and when a post became available, I spent some time reading about the aims and ethos of Simon. The more I read, the more obvious it became that this is an organisation that really bridges the gaps between other services.  It provides a unique service to people that have fallen through the net and those who don’t meet the criteria that will give them access to the services they desperately need.  It gives a voice to those who are the most ignored and marginalized, and it’s there for the long-haul; providing people with a consistent and reliable source of support, something which may have been absent from their lives for a long time. This was a refreshing approach as often people are excluded from services for not conforming to criteria which is often unrealistic considering their chaotic and unstable lives. Change is something that occurs when a person is empowered and motivated to improve their life, it is difficult and unsustainable to force change on someone who is not in a situation to see the bigger picture.

I am reaching the end of my first week with Simon, which has been spent in Leeds. It has been an intense few days, but really good to see Fiona and Jamie working with service users. It’s clear that Simon’s ethos of giving much needed and unconditional emotional support is very beneficial to those using the service. Having heard the personal stories of people accessing the service, it is clear that the time and support invested has had a profound effect on their lives. They have access to empathic support from Fiona, Jamie and Clive, who assist them to work through their issues and find positive solutions. There is also practical support in terms of sign posting to services and having an advocate so that their voices can be heard. Some people are just starting out on their journeys, trying to see their way forward, others have accomplished major change and are on their way to a more settled future, but they are doing this for themselves, showing the value of emotional investment and time.

Unfortunately there are some people who can’t make that change and overcome the substance use or harmful behaviour that may ultimately take their lives! Often these are the people who are most in need of support, but least likely to receive it. My time in Leeds has shown that no matter what a person is going through, they won’t lose the support from their Simon worker, letting them know that every person matters and there will always be someone out there who cares.

I will soon be moving to Simon’s new project in Huddersfield and I feel I have learnt a lot in a few short days, from both service users and staff in Leeds.  I am excited about being involved in setting up the project in a new area and the challenges this will pose. I hope that through a process of meeting other agencies, disseminating information and education, and leading by example, there will be more opportunities available to the people who really matter…. rootless and homeless people who need someone to listen to them, help make their voices heard and invest time in them so they can begin to help themselves.

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For anyone who has not seen our main website – give it a look.  The link below is to the service user section where you can complete the empathy exercise, this is aimed at giving you the chance to see the kinds of challenges the people who Simon On The Streets support face, and why dealing with homelessness is not as simple as bed spaces!


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