There are three main strategies that we employ to engage with the group of people we support who have real challenges engaging with support services. They are a regular and committed presence on the streets, to approach people with simple human kindness and a patient / never give up attitude.
Our worker in Bradford, Mat has been in post for a few months and is now starting to see the benefit of this approach:
There’s a guy I know only as Paul. I’ve seen him quite a lot as I’ve walked round Bradford, at projects or just walking round town. During street outreach sessions I’ve been up to him to say hello, offer him a chat and a coffee and predictably he looked quite uncomfortable and left as quickly as possible. Whenever I see him he’s usually on his own and almost always appears to be under the influence of alcohol. Last night when I was visiting a project that offers free food to those who are homeless he came up to me, I didn’t even see him before he touched me on my arm and told me he had an appointment at a hostel, and if that didn’t work out he’d contact me. I told him who I was but he said he knew.
Reflecting on it with Jon, it’s difficult to attribute what has been important in getting Paul to want to do that. The seemingly ineffective first meeting, the times he has seen me talking to other service users, or just being out there, are all important. It demonstrates we are there for people and can be relied on and also means you catch opportunities like this when they arise. Felt good though.