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Archive for May, 2011

We had a great soup-run in Leeds last night.  Our purpose is to provide a good atmosphere for people who are out on the streets –not to attract people to the streets.  The food we offer, from our perspective is a means to an end – we are not trying to feed the hungry but to engage the disengaged!

Once we have the right people there the idea is to have a pleasant and welcoming environment where anyone who attends feels valued and listened to.  From this point we can then signpost people to appropriate services.

Last night I had two great conversations; one with a guy who is living in a hostel and really starting to struggle with coping with life in there.  An hour of listening to his concerns about what his life had been in the past and what it is at present and some questions about what he wanted changed his focus from ‘sacking off the hostel and going back to rough sleeping’, to feeling able to speak to his key-worker about his worries and trying to make the placement work.

Another guy had gone into a mental health crisis a couple of days before and was feeling lost under the weight of his own anxiety and the complexity of 3 different services that were trying to meet his needs.  A long chat that switched from very serious consideration of his own mental health to ‘banter’, sport and taking the mick out of just how green our soup was, worked well for him.  All I had to provide was a straight man role for the banter and some genuine interest in his challenges.  He clearly needed to talk to someone who overtly had no agenda; just wanted to listen.  He obviously felt better for it and seemed to have started to make sense of his own feelings.

It was a fantastic evening: great company, great banter and great opportunities to encourage some people with some tough challenges to find ways forward that might just work for them.

I love my Job!

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Sainsbury’s Photos

We have just had a photographer here from the Sainsbury’s staff magazine.  They are doing a feature because the staff at Ash Road in Headingley (and some staff at the other Headingley branch) have been doing some fundraising for us.

They are a fantastic group who face any challenge will a great attitude – they certainly had the most fun at last September’s sponsored sleep-out!  And after a conversation with Dan today over photos, it also looks like they might be up for a Yorkshire 3 peaks (25 miles with over 5,000 feet of ascent) challenge!

Thanks to everyone at Sainsbury’s for their support!

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Mat in Bradford talks about the challenge of the early work trying to engage with a non-engager:

“I identified this guy from Ivory Coast as a complete non-engager based on my own experience and what I’d heard from other services.  After many failed attempts to connect with him I found out where he was sleeping and Jon and I went down early one morning and took him some breakfast.  He took the food but pretty much completely ignored us.

The following day I was in another service and he was there, sitting on his own avoiding everyone as usual.  As I left I said ‘au Revoir’, and I got a smile and a wave.  I felt this was a great result and the opportunity to start a relationship… the following day he was back to ignoring me!”

 

The reason Simon on the Streets exists is because we will not let people like this drop off the radar.  If people need support but are not ready to accept it yet we believe simply waiting for them to change their mind is not good enough.  By getting in front of people and trying different things we are creating opportunities to begin a journey of change that would not happen without some kind of intervention. 

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There’s lots of coverage at the moment about Communities minister Andrew Stunell talking about the number of empty council properties and the 700,000 people on waiting lists who could benefit from this being remedied.  There’s also been a mention of the fantastic work that Canopy in Leeds is doing to renovate properties and get people into them.

There is an issue though, talking about housing stock and homeless projects in same breath make it all too easy for the press and others to conclude that if we had enough housing all the problems would go away.  We need the houses but without the time and effort spent on supporting people with their other needs for some, things will not get much better. 

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We have just received notification that we have received a Duke of York Community Initiative Award.  We went through an assessment process a few weeks ago, which included the assessor going out with Hayley, one of our support workers and doing some outreach work.  It’s fantastic to receive an award and especially when we know that the decision was made based on a real experience of what we do and not simply some forms that we filled in (although we filled in quite a lot of those too!).

There will be an Awards Presentation sometime in the autumn.

Thanks to all the team who make Simon on the Streets such a fantastic organisation.  And thanks to all those who support us and make it possible for us to keep up this essential work.

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Thank You

We’d like to say a big thank you to all those who support Simon on the Streets.

A special thanks to the person who gave us an anonymous donation of £400 last month.  You probably don’t want the fuss but as the web makes it so easy to reach people I can’t really not say thank you for such a generous donation!

Thanks

Clive

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 In a recent survey conducted in day centres (http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/HiddenTruthAboutHomelessness_web.pdf ) 62% of the respondents stayed in a ‘hidden homeless’ setting the night before.  That means they were rough sleeping, staying with friends or sleeping in squats.  This snapshot data demonstrates that many of those who are homeless are not necessarily engaged with any formal services that are supporting them to address their situation. 

It’s fantastic that a survey has picked up on this point.  At Simon on the Streets we are working to address this point for those with the most complex support needs.  We find that for some people it’s not just the case that they happen to be getting missed by mainstream support, but are often avoiding it due to their history and how they feel about ‘the state’, formal settings and ‘normal people/society’.  Through street outreach work we specifically target this group and work hard to bridge the gap between them and the services that can meet their needs.

Clive

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According to some research conducted by CRESR/Crisis:

“Rough sleeping may be more prevalent, enduring and ‘invisible’ than we think. The majority of respondents had slept rough, often in ‘out of sight’ locations and with little contact with support services such as rough sleeper teams. Rough sleeping was not an emergency measure for a night or two until adequate shelter could be found. Rather, many respondents had endured sustained episodes of rough sleeping.”

I’ll post more info but you can see the full report at:

 http://www.crisis.org.uk/data/files/publications/HiddenTruthAboutHomelessness_web.pdf

“The survey was conducted in day centres for homeless people in 11 towns and cities in England. These were London, Birmingham, Oxford, Stockport, Newcastle, Blackpool, Manchester, Southampton, Newton Abbot, Sheffield, and Brighton. The character of, and services offered by each day centre varied considerably, from small organisations with a handful of regular clients with whom they work closely to large drop-in centres serving food and offering other basic facilities such as showers and laundry to 200+ people a day.”

I was at our soup-run last night and spoke to three different people who all stated that they do not use day centres (one because he was banned the other two out of choice).  So this research might well be missing data from some of the most vulnerable individuals!

 

Clive

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The first time I got involved with Simon on the Streets as a volunteer it transformed my life. Let me try and tell you why.

Nothing can prepare you for your first experience with Simon on the Streets. Mine being the moment when we turned the corner in the Soup Van to see 40-50 people waiting with hunger and anticipation. I was immediately given the job of handing out the blankets and although closely watched by my new colleagues I was left to settle in on my own with my new job.

As I watched around me, I noticed two things; firstly that the practical needs were being delivered to those in need; food, blankets, the finest tea inLeeds. Additionally, I saw emotional support being provided by a formidable group of people. These volunteers and full time workers, from all different backgrounds and experiences were giving up the most precious thing they had. Their time.

As my own experience developed, I realised how special these people are and how good it felt being part of their team. Later, as I met more volunteers who provide different services to the homeless and rootless people ofLeeds, I understood that they knew different people to me and that the network of support extended far beyond the provision of the Soup Van. They offered a listening ear and a helping hand everyday and every night to those people who, for whatever reason were not receiving support from the recognised support agencies.

As well as providing support to the most vulnerable people in Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford, the friendships and support that exists within Simon on the Streets creates an environment of understanding, commitment, loyalty and trust.

The bond that is created between the volunteers and the fulltime workers is something I have not experienced before. Not only is there an abundance of fun, banter and humor, there is an atmosphere that takes you away from life’s challenges and gives you a sense of purpose and belonging surrounded by thoughtfulness and caring.  Everybody is there to listen, not to pry or judge, just to be there when you need to share.

Now in my eight year as a volunteer, I find myself sharing with others the joy of being a volunteer with Simon on the Streets. People can hear how excited and passionate I am about our organisation. However, the way to truly appreciate it is to be part of an amazing team and have their “first moment”. From that point on, they will be part of a unique group of people. It may also transform your life!

Ian, Volunteer

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Our support worker in Bradford, Mat, who is new to us and quite new to our service user group is asking some great questions!  For instance yesterday he spent a few hours trying to support a guy to get some housing who had just been evicted from a hostel.  As always with our service users things are never straight forward and there is probably more to learn, but the reason for his eviction (or at least a contributing factor) is to do with him either having alcohol or consuming alcohol on the premises.

The challenge for Mat is that the guy only moved into this hostel about a week ago.  He has a massive alcohol problem.  So Mat’s questions are why was this person referred to and housed by a hostel that has such strict rules about alcohol on the premises.  The job in hand today should have been done a week ago and without the challenge of a recent eviction making supported housing providers nervous about this guy’s behaviour.  We’re confident that he’s no angel, but if square pegs are forced into round holes something has to break and it’s usually the vulnerable that come off worse.

My worry is that we live in a society where it’s all too easy to point at people like our service users and say ‘it’s your own fault, you should behave properly’ but when you consider this not unfamiliar story of how someone was set up to fail maybe the fingers that are pointing need to take a u-turn!

Clive

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