Archive for the ‘practical support’ Category

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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 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.


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Another film from Simon on the Streets

Support the work of Simon on the Streets

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If you would like to help Simon on the Streets support homeless people in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield please check this link to make a donation or here if you would be interested in volunteering

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I have noticed that one of my clients, Paul, has been looking more and more unwell over the past few weeks.  He said he had been assaulted a few weeks ago by a large group of people and has been feeling ill ever since.  He is also rough sleeping after being evicted from a hostel for having rent arrears of £18, and he has numerous other health problems including DVT’s.  Medically he needs to go to A & E (on his doctor’s advice) but feels he needs to get some accommodation first.

I spoke to the housing dept who agreed that Paul had priority and that if he presented with proof of benefits they would provide emergency accommodation.  He was extremely relieved as he said that he knew rough sleeping was making him even more poorly.  He agreed to go to HAP with me which was a really big step for him as he has had negative experiences of other services in the past.  We queued up for just under an hour, during which time Paul was still really positive despite being in obvious pain and feeling very unwell.  When we were called to the front desk we were informed that Paul’s case had been closed and there was no record of my phone conversation with them.  When I questioned this they said that they would have to get Paul’s file and see what had happened and that they were too busy to do it straight away.  They agreed that they shouldn’t have closed his file but, despite the fact that the error was on their part, Paul would have to come back later and wait, again, if he wanted to be considered for emergency accommodation.  They also stated that Paul needed a letter from his GP stating his health issues.  I reminded them that it is not Paul’s responsibility to seek evidence but theirs.  During this time Paul remained very quiet and polite, despite being extremely disappointed and upset.  Paul decided that he would try and find somewhere to stay himself.  The way which Paul’s case was handled just reaffirmed Paul’s mistrust of services. 

Paul is still rough sleeping and his health is deteriorating.  He is also reluctant to go back to the housing dept as he feels that they don’t want to help him.  I will encourage Paul to go and accompany him if he does.  I will also continue to contact housing and chase up what is happening with his case.  By advocating for Paul I hope that his case will be reopened and he will be given the priority status that he clearly requires and will be placed into suitable accommodation. 

Fiona, Support Worker


This case demonstrates how the people we work with find it almost impossible to engage with services.  Had Fiona not been with Paul on his visit to the housing dept, being told his case was closed would probably have ended his attempts to secure housing.  Our service users often feel powerless, in fact often the only power they perceive themselves to have in this kind of setting is aggression and fear – and it is this behaviour that leaves many banned from services.

Our government is committed to ending rough sleeping yet we are making the services for rough-sleepers severely inaccessible.  The worrying thing for us is that the longer an individual sleeps rough the harder they find it to move out of rough sleeping.  In Paul’s case this does not bode well – he is very ill, and getting worse. 

Our service users often get blamed for their own situation.  They certainly take some decisions that lead them to where they are.  But blaming them won’t support them to move on!  We firmly believe that people who aren’t getting the support they need should get it, whatever the reason for their situation. 

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I’ve worked with Terry for about 2 years now and for most of that time he’s been an entrenched rough sleeper. Terry was in care from an early age and soon resorted to crime – namely car theft and joy riding – to fill his time and stunt his boredom. The outcome of this was a trip to the local Young Offenders Institution where he started experimenting with drugs! After a few years of smoking weed and doing recreational drugs Terry’s mental health suffered and he tried to commit suicide by jumping off a railway bridge. He was hurt, but not dead and was then sectioned by the local authority and diagnosed as schizophrenic.

When Terry was discharged from the psychiatric ward he went into supported housing in Bradford, it was here he started using heroin. He turned up in Leeds and was brought to the attention of our organisation; this was about 4 years ago. Throughout this time Terry had been in and out of hostels, but mainly rough sleeping due to his drug addiction. We, as an organisation, never gave up on Terry. He was often incredibly difficult to engage with and refused to have anything to do with specialist support services. But we persevered and knew that if we maintained contact with him there was always an opportunity for positive change even if in the short term that was simply buying him a sandwich or just a chat. Consequently through long term planning and getting Terry to recognise the need for small steps towards his desired outcomes we managed to secure drug treatment for him which he’s doing fine with and is stable. He’s also just signed for his own tenancy with the local authority and we’re working with Terry to get him moved in and settled.

Jamie, Support Worker

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My work background is pretty varied.  I first studied IT at university but dropped out to look after my husband, Chris, when he got ill.  I eventually graduated with a 2:1 in Archaeology and Prehistory from Sheffield University and spent some time on digs in this country and a few months in Greece.  After that I kind of fell into IT work and became an IT Security Analyst for a multi-national pharmaceutical company.  I stayed with IT work, mainly for the money, although I was getting very disillusioned with working for such large corporate organisations and was beginning to lack motivation.  I decided it was a time for a change so started volunteering at a local advice centre because, as clichéd as this might sound, I wanted to feel good about the work I was doing.

I had been volunteering for about 7 months when I applied for the job at Leeds Simon Community.  When I saw the advert I had a look on the website to make sure it was the sort of organisation I wanted to work for and the more I read the more I agreed with the whole ethos of the organisation.  Part of the interview process involved going out on outreach with 2 workers, Jen and Jamie, to see what it was all about.  What struck me straight away was that all the people we spoke to on the streets were really pleased to see us, everyone spoke about Leeds Simon Community in a very positive way and while we were out I got to see Jen and Jamie doing some work with the people we met on the streets.  Some of it was practical work, arranging to take someone to the housing office, and some it was emotional support, spending 10 minutes with someone who had just been discharged from hospital and was feeling pretty low.  Because the service users are on the streets, if you go out and see them on the streets they are much more likely to engage with you than if you ask them to keep appointments.  Being in a set place at a set time can be quite difficult when you take into consideration the chaotic lifestyle that a lot of our service users live.

I’ve been doing the job so far for 7 weeks and it’s been pretty full on, I’m learning a lot from Clive, Jen and Jamie, and also from the service users.  It’s tough when you see the conditions that people have to endure every day, being on the streets clearly brings with it a lot of associated problems.  I’ve accompanied service users to doctor or hospital appointments where they’ve been told that they are at a massive risk of overdose or that they are going to die within 6 months if they don’t cut down the amount of substances they use.  That’s difficult to hear but what I find harder is that quite often the service user’s say they don’t care, they are so low in mood, motivation and self esteem that they seem ready to give up. This is sad but it’s also extremely frustrating when you can see so much potential in people.

Sometimes service users just want to chat about their problems and what’s going on for them and, even though they don’t expect us to offer a solution, it helps to be able to talk.  Quite often service users have little or no positive emotional support in their lives so if you can take time to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat then it gives them that outlet for their problems and shows them that somebody cares about what’s going on in their lives. This also helps build up the relationship which means the individual may be more willing to engage in a discussion about more difficult issues such as drug and alcohol use, housing and relationships problems.

So far I’ve found the job to be pretty much what I expected, I’m enjoying the challenges and although the job can be emotionally tiring, frustrating and at times quite hard going, it’s also extremely rewarding, challenging and very varied. Looking forward, I hope to keep developing my skills as a support worker at Leeds Simon Community and helping to raise awareness of the issues surrounding homelessness.

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