Sometimes understanding and overcoming mental health barriers is the most fundamental aspect of supporting someone who finds themselves homeless and that’s why our Outreach Team are on the streets every day.
The team offer to support those who have become entrenched in a ‘street lifestyle’. This means that they find it hard to adapt to independent living and either continue to sleep on the streets, return regularly to ask for money or engage with the street homeless community. Mental health, mistrust of outsiders and understandable difficulties in moving forward with their life can all contribute to this.
With years of work on the frontline of homelessness, mental health and drug misuse support, our Outreach Team go out into the community to try and establish a relationship with those who are hardest to reach with the long-term aim of helping them to live an independent life. People like Matthew.
Matthew had been rough sleeping all over Merseyside for two years when our team found him living in a tent. Matthew was very reluctant to accept any help and initially wouldn’t even open up the tent, only speaking through a small hole in the zip. When our team offered to arrange a taxi to take him to our day centre for a shower, food and a change of clothes he would become hostile and aggressive.
Luckily, our team are highly experienced and know that often there are no quick fixes and it’s a case of helping that person build up trust in the relationship. With this in mind, they started visiting Matthew more regularly and often up to four times a day. Soon he started to open up and explained that he had been sleeping on the streets throughout his life. He also had mental health problems and a history offending both of which made it even harder to get his life back on track. Our team could tell that, as resistant as he seemed, Matthew really wanted to have a better future.
During those trips with our team who he’d come to trust and like it eventually emerged that the reason why Matthew wouldn’t attend either our day or night centres. He told them that because of his mental health problems he found it incredibly hard to be around crowds and doing so would trigger paranoid episodes that he was terrified of.
Once our team understood the barrier they started looking for a solution. They explained to Matthew that they could help arrange support without him having to go to a centre at all. From the same Greggs where they’d been having a coffee each day, where he felt comfortable and safe, our team did an initial assessment which meant they could start the process of finding Matthew a home.
Our team continued to visit him daily until a room was made available in supported shared housing and then our team helped Matthew move in within twenty-four hours. They also provided him with the little things that can make all the difference when settling into a new home - a food parcel until his benefits arrived, clothes and a toiletry kit.
Because we understand that the root cause of homelessness is not simply about having a roof over your head our team ensured that Matthew had mental health care and support for drug misuse recovery. Our team still speak to Matthew regularly on the telephone and visit him once a week to see if he needs anything or simply to offer companionship. After years of rough sleeping Matthew is finally settling in well into a home, gaining the help he needs and hasn’t been on the streets since.