A man named Joe…
By Elena Casilli, Service Coordinator, VOICES
Joe* has multiple and complex need’s. I’ve been working with Joe through VOICES for a few years. Joe made a life changing decision when he was told by his consultant; “it’s not a matter of ‘if you continue to drink you may die’- you will die”. Joe decided he wanted to live.
Joe’s priority need was accommodation – a place to call home so he can start the next phase of his life. Joe had been sofa surfing, on and off, for a number of years. Joe was told by the council that there was a long waiting list for a modified property that would meet Joe’s specific needs and he was not a priority, as he was sofa surfing, regardless of being in an overcrowded property.
Sofa surfers are and continue to be the hidden homeless and remain on no one’s priority housing radar.
For all of that year Joe was stable, attending all his appointments, family relationships improved, he even got a couple of pets. No suitable property offers were made or if they were, it was in the wrong location – Joe had to be close to family as he needed their support. Joe required a home where he could get the support he needed to maintain a tenancy but he was too young for some supported accommodation providers.
The following Spring, Joe experienced the loss of a close family member which resulted in Joe returning to his previous chaotic lifestyle of homelessness and misusing alcohol and substances. Joe was quickly accommodated due to the Covid 19 guidance of supporting rough sleepers, as well as his serious health issues.
We talk about the principles of early intervention and prevention and that working within this framework is far better for all stakeholders, as opposed to the resource intensive crisis stage.
What went wrong for Joe? Joe was not on anyone’s priority or supported living list, all because he was accommodated by sleeping on a sofa.
We will never know if Joe’s story would have turned out differently if during that difficult year, he was accommodated in his own property with the support he needed either by social care or a supported living provider; or if the family tragedy would have impacted on him differently and the way he dealt with it.
But what we do know is if Joe was accommodated whilst he was stable:
- He would not have needed to be accommodated in a homeless unit
- He would not have needed intervention from the rough sleeper’s team and have meals brought to him
- He would not have needed a family member to bring him his life saving medication
- He may not be known to the justice system
- He may have not needed referrals to a drug service
- He may not have needed to attend A&E as frequently as he did or have been admitted as an inpatient on numerous occasions due serious health issues.
- During his year of relative stability, Joe attended Accident and Emergency Admission (A&E) once and less than 30 nights in hospital following a single admission.
- The following year, Joe has attended A&E more than 30 times by the end of July and has spent more than 40 nights in hospital for several admissions.
- The numerous professionals working with Joe may not have needed to attend multi-agency disciplinary meetings
- There would not have been a plethora of emails involved in the coordination of his case
- Perhaps Joe’s family would have experienced less anxiety about the wellbeing of their loved one
Joe’s story continues, what Joe wants is still the same, his own place. But for now, he knows he needs to be in supported living accommodation where he can get the professional help he needs and regain the skills to live an independent life.
* Joe is not a real name