"Some people are just born bad!"
Updated: Jul 31
Supporting people means more than providing a roof and food. We all deserve to live.
The last few months have been inspiring for many of us who have experienced homelessness. Many people who have historically been de-humanised have been offered safety and connections. Support has been provided with the whole person rather than for a service need or commissioned outcome. People have been acknowledged as people worthy of care. Trusting relationships have formed.
This has not always been the case. And regretfully, as national and local government work to support people move on from emergency accommodation, there are worrying signals that we are moving away from an approach that aims to end homelessness to one that simply hides it.
“All that good work is going to be undone, because there isn’t the support there.” Member of National Advisory Panel
"Somewhere that's not safe"
We all need a sense of safety to support our growth. However, the high density housing solutions that are being offered in some areas, such as re-purposed hotels, located outside of city centres, do not provide this safety. They provide sites of tensions and conflict. With little support or access to support, they are just a load of bricks.
“Already there are issues in that area. There’s police and ambulances. They don’t have the correct staff. The individuals there aren’t getting the right support…It’s going to become a location that our service users are going to be offered and they’ll refuse. They’re not going to want to go somewhere that’s not safe. It's chaos.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“You can’t put people in a hotel and try and manage their needs in a hotel by just giving them food. You need a lot more than that. The right support isn’t in place.” Member of National Advisory Panel
"It's all about relationships"
The best organisations are the ones that empower and support the development of meaningful connections and relationships.
However, with finances short and uncertain for so long, many organisations have seen freezes on recruitment and redundancies, disrupting the very relationships that have been key to recent successes. And, regretfully, negative fatalistic attitudes that treat individuals as people to be fixed or un-fixable can still be found amongst some of the people who need to embody trust and compassion.
“More than ever, relationships are important. Some people will feel let down.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“It’s all about relationships, relationship building, and many of the people who have been laid off are those people.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“(Worker said) Some people are just born bad!” Member of National Advisory Panel
"They are not engaging"
We know that these attitudes are not new. Attitudes within drug and alcohol services commissioned to support or rehabilitate can make people feel treated like a child, controlled and humiliated. Yet when services are not accessed, it is those of us accessing services that are referred to as ‘not engaging.”
“How many times have I seen the support withdrawn, and they say that they are not engaging, three strikes and out. It’s you [worker] that’s not engaging!” Member of National Advisory Panel
"Voice, choice and aspirations"
It is critical that solutions funded by central government and local authorities are as effective as possible. This means that a change in approach is needed, which gives people a voice, a choice, and works towards aspirations.
“Policing out, and medicating out, has never worked. We need community.” Member of National Advisory Panel
Support must work towards relationships. Instead of reducing self-esteem and confidence, practices must be adapted to ensure that people are empowered to be equal partners in decisions made about our lives.
"If something doesn’t change nothing changes….They’ve been working that way for years and it’s not working. They are working towards what they [staff] perceive…it’s their plan, and their goals.” Member of National Advisory Panel
Support must recognise that peoples needs may not relate to their housing. Support will require staff to be able to provide extended time with people to develop trust and relationships, and crucially equip people with the confidence that if challenges arrive in the future, they will have the tools to manage them.
“You’ve got a framework of living which reflects commissioners lives. They think this is what life is like for everyone. They don’t understand where people are really at. No-one thinks that people have kids.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“It’s not just budgeting support, it should be more than that.. How to make a cup of tea. How to make a cheese sandwich. Because they’re the people who are going to be back on the streets, because it’s easier to beg for a cheese sandwich than to make one.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“There needs to be more voluntary services like Street Buddies around the country that are time enriched, not ‘you can only have a year then that’s it.’ We know it works because we’ve got so many people in and they’re still in.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“People need to have the confidence that when they leave the system, they can come back to someone and sort it out. I’ve got this deep seated fear of becoming homeless again, and I know what I’m doing. If I hit the streets tomorrow I’d be off by the day after. But I’ve got the fear. And so what must the people in the hotels feel like? People need to know that things will be alright, and that’s the stuff we need to teach people.” Member of National Advisory Panel
The support will need to be delivered in a specific way that is engaging to individuals. This will require using communication that is not other-ing, or judgemental, and ensures that people are empowered and their aspirations listened too.
“If they’ve been on the streets for twenty years, they haven’t paid a bill, they haven’t cooked a meal... But you can’t be like, ‘this is how you do it,’ else they’ll tell you to f off.” Member of National Advisory Panel
“It’s about being a human being – you can go on all the training, but if you haven’t got that quality... Don’t look at people as a service user, talk to people as you’d talk to people in a restaurant.” Member of National Advisory Panel
"It’s all of our issue"
“In regards to homelessness, we need to get everyone round the table and say ‘Its not street outreach’s issue, it’s not housing options issue, it’s not [ ] City Councils issue, its all of our issue.” Member of National Advisory Panel
We must all do our bit to end homelessness. We must all look at how we work, how we engage, how we make decisions.
“People tend to 'Tread down and look up.' If the attitude and approach was more akin to 'Look down and help up' they could be a massive part of the healing process and incorporate change.” Member of National Advisory Panel
Crucially, everyone must remember that we are all worthy of safety, connections and care. All of us deserve to be treated as human beings, with talents, hopes and aspirations.
We are not born bad.
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