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Posts Tagged ‘outreach’

According to Bradford Speak Out:

“Four out of ten of single homeless people have squatted at some point, so Government plans to criminalise squatting risk hitting the most vulnerable.

Of course homeowners have to be protected and current laws should be enforced. But plans to criminalise people squatting in derelict buildings would penalise many who have no other option. We think that ministers need to focus on the root causes of homelessness, not its consequences.”

I think it also bolsters the point from last week’s blog about rough sleeper numbers: https://simonfoundation.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/rough-sleeper-numbers/ that the nubers don’t really matter, what’s inportant is how able we are to engage and support people in all areas of life and not simply their housing.  Our work has seen us over the years supporting many people who were sleeping in derelict buildings who have have been far more vulnerable than some people sleeping out in the open air.

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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.

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Jon, one of our support workers shares the experiences of a day ‘at the office’ in Huddersfield:

As I was walking down to the Mission to meet Tim I bumped in to Julie who I have been doing some short term work with regarding her abusive relationship and domestic violence. She had blood on her coat and clothes and what appeared to be a cut on the side of her head. I spent some time talking to her and tried to get her to either go to the doctors’ or to let me call her an ambulance due to the fact she had a head injury. She refused to go seek any medical help and insisted she was fine. While talking to her she informed me that she had been stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver repeatedly and had been attacked by her husband but she still refused to see a Dr or to have an ambulance called.

As I had an appointment to go to and I could not get anywhere with Julie and she insisted on staying in the park I went to meet Alan. I managed to book him an appointment at the Doctors’ in order to talk to the Dr about his mental health and the options available to him for treatment. While waiting for the appointment we managed to phone and restart a benefits claim for him and he is now just waiting for the statement to be posted ou.

I also called the addiction service for Alan to talk to his worker there about his community order. When I managed to talk to his worker there she told me that he had not been engaging, as we knew, and that all efforts on their part from home visits and outreach that they had been unable to re establish contact. His worker was keen to help me to help Alan re engage with herself, his
CPN and probation and gave me the names and contact details of his probation officer and his CPN. On contacting these I managed to establish that Alan has been discharged from the mental health team due to non engagement, however they are willing to re asses him if the need arises. I was also told by probation that if Alan re engages with either the addiction service or probation or both them he would not be in breach of his community order and they could work to sort things out for him. I made an appointment for Alan at Lifeline tomorrow at 10am, his worker agreed to contact me to let me know if he did or did not attend so that we can discuss ways to help him to engage.

At the doctor’s appointment Alan was told that he needed to start re engaging with the addiction service as his short to medium term problems were best addressed by them and that once engaging with them more medium and long term solutions could be considered for his mental health. Alan gave the doctors’ permission to share his information with me and to contact him through me. From this I learned that when Alan was discharged from hospital his assessment was that there were no mental or psychological needs and that he was not in need of any medication. I am not sure if this diagnosis/assessment is still accurate as Alan talks about hearing voices and has told me he is a paranoid schizophrenic. He does exhibit signs of increasing paranoia and has been very agitated since the passing of a friend of his.

Later on when I went back to the mission I was told that an ambulance had been called for Julie as she was looking to be very sleepy and people were worried about her injuries. I talked with the paramedics and because she refused to be taken to hospital there was little they could do except to inform us of the signs to be aware of with head trauma. After this Julie wanted to go to a housing appointment we had booked previously and so we went up and presented at housing.

Initially they processed the application as a domestic violence application but after going through the interview and checking details the only places they could offer were in Keighley or Rotheram, neither of which Julie wanted to go to for differing reasons. As she had been sleeping rough for 2 nights we managed to go down the rough sleeper process rather than domestic violence. Once this was done they found her some temporary accommodation in until such a time as they can give her a temporary flat.   Julie was over the moon with this and was very thankful that I had managed to get her somewhere to stay and said that although she still felt scared she did feel safer. I called into the mission with her on the way back in order to make a referral for clothes as the only ones she had were the ones she was wearing and they were all covered in blood. Julie appeared to be ok when I left but I’m still worried and will catch up with her again as soon as I can.

 Jon, Support Worker

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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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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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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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Another film from Simon on the Streets

Support the work of Simon on the Streets

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