Homelessness to Sanctuary and Independence Pt.1: our Fresh Start policy

The transition from rough sleeping and homelessness to taking up permanent accommodation can be a difficult and complex journey. Wirral Ark (and other charities and organisations operating in the homelessness sector), know they are working with some of society’s most vulnerable people.

The majority of our client group have a complex set of issues ranging from alcohol and drug addiction, mental and physical health problems, family disputes and financial troubles. Therefore, we are acutely aware of the need to address not only the immediate issue of homelessness, but also help to offer support for some of the reasons behind why people find themselves homeless.

Here at Wirral Ark, we have adopted a series of policies and procedures that ensure our clients are given the best possible chance to progress towards independence. This begins with our policy of our model of supported housing for homeless people which is predicated on our belief (backed up with statistical research) that the first step toward supporting a homeless individual is to provide safety and sanctuary.

A recent example of this policy (from a national perspective) was the government response to homelessness in relation to the Covid-19 crisis in which they mandated the ‘everyone in’ commitment; a statutory requirement for local authorities to house rough sleepers in temporary accommodation – ensuring that no one would be sleeping rough during the crisis. This policy has had a huge impact on the numbers of rough sleepers and highlights what can be achieved when authorities are fully committed to solving the homelessness issue.

Pathway from homelessness to housing

We operate through referrals and outreach and work with homeless people to create a pathway to safe and secure accommodation. This begins with assessing their needs and creating a support plan so that we can monitor progress and ensure the client is accessing the help that they need – no matter how vulnerable they are.

In this regard, our aim is to provide a fully-comprehensive service equipped and ready to deal with a multiplicity of issues relating to both housing and the associated problems that have contributed to an individual’s homelessness.

A large part of our initial work is based on ‘harm reduction’ with a focus on alleviating the symptoms of that harm. A good example is working with people who are suffering from alcohol dependency. Rather than enforcing total abstinence (this can be more harmful to the individual prevent people from accessing the support they need) we support people to address their alcohol dependency and create a plan and work towards the individual becoming independent of alcohol.

Sadly, issues such as these are all too common place and we recognise the difficulties and problems people are living with when they are homeless. However, once we have created a support plan and start working with our clients and addressing their issues, we use this foundational work to compliment our housing support.

We have a very clear process which enables people to progress through the different stages of housing support – night shelter, hostel, semi-independent / move on housing and finally, independent permanent housing. Adopting this continuum of care model means people progress along the staircase until they get to the stage of housing that best suits their needs.

Once housed, what next?

After we have engaged homeless individuals and provided some form of accommodation, we then focus on working with our new clients to assess their immediate and medium-to-long-term needs and create an agreed pathway to full independence. This is, by no means, an easy process and is often fraught with numerous difficulties and many false starts.  However, we understand this is all part of the process.

Wirral Ark provide inhouse support for our clients to help them with day-to-day living – providing guidance on their finances, food shopping, personal care and hygiene, managing the upkeep of their accommodation, nurturing inter-personal relationship skills and (more often than not), lending an ear and offering someone to talk to.

For those with complex mental health and/or addiction needs we work with a range of providers and support organisations that specialise in these areas. We will engage these organisations and provide a pathway for our clients to access these services. We work with these organisations to monitor our clients progress and to ensure that we are supporting them in whatever way necessary as they begin the journey of recovery.

This support, the relationships and trust we build with our clients is essential to the work we do and gives our clients the best possible chance to advance on their pathway to full independence.

However, one of the crucial first steps in that journey is the availability of ‘move on’ accommodation. Recently, Wirral Ark have been given planning permission for a moving on development at Prenton Road West and we are hugely excited to get that project up and running. Look out for our next post as we detail the benefits of this new project and what we will be putting in place for our clients.