The government has plans to change the way supported housing is funded, but this could have dire consequences for organisations that help people experiencing homelessness. To learn more about the effects of the proposed changes, Shadow Housing Minister Melanie Onn MP visited The Salvation Army’s Booth House Lifehouse in Grimsby.
Not only did Onn meet with Booth House staff, she also met with residents who have experienced homelessness but who are now receiving critical support services to help them find their feet and gain the skills to overcome obstacles in their life. The vulnerable people who benefit from tailored support services are all over 25 years old and they live in the 35-bed self-catered Lifehouse.
Tailored support includes emotional support for unique life challenges, but that’s not all that is available to residents. They are also encouraged to contribute to the running of the Lifehouse, which helps them see themselves to productive members of society.
This is incredibly important to vulnerable people who have either been negatively labelled or who have negatively labelled themselves. They regain their sense of self-worth, which empowers them in other aspects of their lives and enables them to make positive decisions about their future.
Commenting on the importance of self-empowerment, Service Manager Shaun Stainton said, “It’s important to us that our residents are the driving force for transformation – whether that’s in their own personal journey or in how we run the Lifehouse and its programme.”
Stainton added,”…what we want them to find from that first moment is that we see them for who they are, not for the labels they’ve attached to themselves or have had prescribed by others. We want to show that we see their true value and worth and encourage them to see it as well.”
Tailored support also includes access to additional services, including a computer suite, and support for employment, education and rehousing through the resettlement programme.
One of the residents commented on her experience at Booth House, “I’ve received a lot of support and it’s made a lot of difference, being helped to do things myself. When I first came to Booth House, I used to sit and cry all the time. I’d lost my husband – I’m still not over it – but I’ve had loads of help. I can tell the staff anything and it’s private, which is good … I’ve had loads of help and I’m hoping to get a flat of my own. The staff have been excellent and my keyworker has bent over backwards to help me. It’s been brilliant – I’ll miss them all when I move on.”
Shadow Minister sees the light
Melanie Onn MP learned a lot from her experience at Booth House and said, “The Salvation Army provides vital support services in Grimsby, helping get people back on their feet. We’re seeing more and more people becoming homeless today and The Salvation Army does excellent work in preventing them from having to sleep on the streets. It’s worrying how the planned changes the government are proposing to make to housing benefit would see the funding for sites like this cut. I will be raising this in Parliament in my role as Shadow Housing Minister.”
Assistant Regional Homelessness Services Manager for the North East Region Major Gilliant Coates said, “Today we’ve been able to demonstrate to the Shadow Minister of Housing the added value that services such as Booth House provide to people when they are at their most vulnerable. We have also raised with her the uncertainties services such as ours face when it comes to the future sustainability of supported housing funding … if the government’s current proposal is introduced as is, then our residents and services will be exposed to increasing levels of risk and uncertainty.”
Coates added, “We’re seeking a solution which offers vulnerable homeless residents and their communities the strongest possible guarantee that local services will remain operational and accessible under the new system.”
Living at Booth House
The residents are divided into clusters according to the way in which their beds are grouped. There are seven clusters of five rooms. Each cluster has a staff member who provides feedback on how the people in their cluster are coping with their experience at Booth House. The team of staff then responds in a proactive way.
Stainton said,”… it’s the residents’ voices that shape our services – we want them to know they make a difference rather than having to accept only what’s put in front of them. While their stay with us is temporary, we want them to be empowered to make decisions, feel strong and better about themselves and to make a difference and see that what they say does count.”