Spotlight on Housing Support
Preventing homelessness is a key element of our work, last year The Whitechapel Centre prevented homelessness for 1,447 people. We do this in a number of ways, including drop-in advice sessions, online and phone advice, as well as home visits for people needing more sustained support. For many of the people we help there are underlying issues of substance misuse, mental health, money management or similar which are putting their tenancy at risk. Home visits are also the main way of supporting people resettling into their own accommodation from hostels or temporary accommodation.
We operate a number of surgeries at locations in Liverpool including Langsdale Street, Toxteth Town Hall and Kensington Children’s Centre. Through the surgeries we support people to navigate systems e.g. Welfare Rights, Propertypool Plus applications. For some people we can resolve issues with a one-off or small number of interventions.
We encourage anyone who is concerned about their housing situation to get in touch as soon as possible,.
Mark and his mother Sarah (names changed) presented at one of our drop-in advice sessions. They explained some of the living conditions they were enduring, no running water, no heating and a lot of disrepair. Mark bought the house 30 years ago with some money left to him and has been on benefits due to medical & mental illness so was unable to fund any housing repairs.
We arranged to visit Mark and Sarah at their home. It was upsetting to find the conditions that theywere living in, collapsed floors and ceilings, the bath had completely fallen through to the ground floor. This led to their water supply being cut off for 8 months which also left them with no heating. There was a make shift floor which was made up of planks of wood for them to walk over to access the kitchen area. Neither could go upstairs due to the unsafety of the floors. Sarah was sleeping on a sofa under a bay window which had previously collapsed on her whilst sleeping.
We immediately contacted adult social care, environmental health and the fire service for help and advice. Within the week we arranged for Mark and Sarah to view a sheltered accommodation which they were happy to accept. We supported them throughout their move, arranging new furnishings and helping them to settle in.
Mark and Sarah are now living happily, comfortable in their new home with beautiful surroundings. They have sold their old house.
The Whitechapel Centre’s Children and Young Persons Project works with children who are living with their families, experiencing homelessness and are being supported by the charity. In the last year we worked with 129 children, from birth to age 18.
While our family centres provide a safe, stable place to stay much of the support provided focuses on the parent’s circumstances. We saw the need for specific, specialist support for the children and young people and developed the project with funding from Children In Need. The effect of homelessness on children can sometimes be overlooked, but we know it can limit their opportunities to just be a child and live in a world where they have stability, routine, are carefree and able to grow, develop and have hope for the future.
All the children have experienced homelessness which can affect their well-being, resulting in a lack of self-esteem and confidence, stress, instability and loss of friends. Many of the children have had their education disrupted as a result of upheaval. Some have had difficult, traumatic experiences including domestic abuse, violence, arson, criminal activity of a family member, having a parent who has mental health and or substance misuse issues, death of a loved one as well as the children of refugee families who have witnessed war and destruction.
Our key areas of support are education and development, health and wellbeing; and involvement in meaningful activities within the community. We ensure children are in education, attend school regularly and receiving the right support for their needs. We organise regular group and individual activities to promote wellbeing, including yoga and mindfulness, drama and dance and interactive play. We also help children reconnect with old friends make new friends and join activities and groups local to them.
Many of the children are on a journey dealing with past and present experiences and struggling to find ways to express themselves. These experiences can influence the ways in which the child develops. We do a lot of work with understanding Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) and how the child that presents today can be struggling in their environment. We ask “What has happened to you” rather than “What is wrong with you” and we give children the tools and strategies to help cope with their situation and most importantly enjoy their childhoods.
Jane and her family stayed at one of our centres for families who are homeless. Jane is carer for her disabled husband and they have 4 children.
Becoming homeless is a difficult time for any family and Sue, our Children & Young Persons Worker, is there to help make things easier. Sue’s project is funded by Children in Need and she has helped hundreds of children and young people through their experience of homelessness.
Jane explains how it benefited her family, “Sue did so much to help us through a tough time. She helped find a local primary school for my girls, and travel passes so my older two could stay at their secondary school in north Liverpool. She also helped my eldest son get a work placement in the hospital as he’s interested in working there in the future.
During the school holidays Sue keeps all the children busy. Most of the families have very little money but Sue arranged days out, gym passes and activities in the centre itself. It’s a great way for the families to get to know each other too.
The staff at the family centre helped us to find a lovely new home in an area we wanted to live. But it was an hour long bus journey from my daughters’ school so we wanted to find somewhere closer. Sue helped us all the way, even coming with me to the appeal, which we won. Sue kept in touch after we left the hostel continuing to help us and to check that the kids were all settled in.
We're home now but had so many obstacles to face when we became homeless and we couldn’t have managed without Sue and all her support.”
Children in Need funding for the Children & Young Persons Project over the last 3 years has seen us support 426 children who were experiencing homelessness. Working directly with the children we have been able to improve access to education and learning, mental & physical wellbeing and better connection into the community.
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