Association of Charitable Foundations event
By Andy Meakin, Director, VOICES
We were delighted to welcome colleagues from the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), Homeless Link, and the National Lottery Community Fund to Federation House at the end of March to discuss the relationship between homelessness and criminal justice.
VOICES pulled together examples from across the Fulfilling Lives partnership of what works well in these contexts for our customers based on our learning.
We summarised these in to five key approaches:
- Service coordination / navigation
An assertive case worker and advocate to offer immediate help working from a strengths-based perspective. Someone to guide and engage people in the services that they need. A determined and persistent worker that focuses on solutions. Navigators steer people to and through services (and vice versa), assist people to overcome practical barriers using a personal budget, and compile a multi-agency plan to move towards people’s aspirations.
- Multi-disciplinary working
People with complex needs often face multiple exclusion from services. This leads to situations where people may feel or become ‘stuck’ outside of the system. Multidisciplinary working allows professionals involved to take a solution focused approach. This will often necessitate dealing with exceptions through compromise and sharing identified manageable risks.
- Trauma informed care
People that have been through harrowing experiences may display symptoms of post traumatic stress. These include panic attacks, aggression, hypervigilance, rapid mood swings, flashbacks, and mental ill-health. In the absence of access to services people may try to mask these symptoms with drugs or alcohol. Responses that often lead to exclusion. Our language and actions need to emphasise physical and emotional safety, rebuild control through choice in a predicable environment, and take a strengths-based approach.
- Psychologically informed environments
The physical, policy, and procedural environments of services can all have an impact on customers and staff. With some thought, these can all be developed to be more conducive to positive outcomes. Reflective practice and supervision are import for staff wellbeing. Policies, procedures, and legal documents – e.g. tenancy agreements – should be in plain, easily understood language.
- Housing First
People are placed directly in to permanent accommodation from the street. This is based on the principles that housing is a human right, support is open ended, support is separated from the housing offer, individuals have choice and control, based on strengths and aspirations, a harm reduction and active engagement approach is taken. Housing First has a high success rate in people maintaining their tenancies and has been deployed in the UK, Europe, and the US.
Case studies in the form of video and audio interviews with people experiencing homelessness and the criminal justice system demonstrated some of the systemic issues particularly around prison release. These are issues to which the above approaches can be applied usefully.
During the final session of the day, Darren, Jason, and Lee took part in a question and answer session talking about their own journey and what worked well for them. This added the usefulness of high-quality housing support and meaningful use of time while in prison to the list of positive methods. To round off the day, Jason gave an inspiring performance of spoken word poetry based on his experiences.
If you want to know more about the five key approaches, please get in touch with us via [email protected] . Our learning programme is available via our website here https://www.voicesofstoke.org.uk/learning/