‘I didn’t think he could do it…’ says Wayne – one of the peer mentors working with a client on Housing First, ‘I thought he’d sell the TV and I’d not see him again…’
Wayne has been working with Chris (not his real name) for 3 months. Chris, previously street homeless with convictions for drug offences, has been engaging with Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) for around 9 months. He came to ICM with nowhere to live after running out of sofas to stay on, bereaved following the suicide of his sister and with problematic drug use beginning to attract the attention of dealers and the police.
Ben Godfrey, Housing First Development Officer and responsible for building our relationships with landlords, found him a place to rent and Wayne helped him move in; accessing white goods, furniture and equipment from retailers – and charities…including a new TV. Wayne said that he was apprehensive about giving him something new but, months later, the TV has pride of place in his new house next to the pot plant Chris has bought to make his house a home.
We’ve learnt too. Our first 6 months have taught us about the value of a dedicated housing brokerage post. Ben has been matching tenants and landlords and making sure that both are part of the decision making process.
Also – we now know more than ever of the importance of a tailored support offer; which is the crucial element in supporting men and women who have led complex lives into stable accommodation. Not just ceasing at the point where a tenancy is signed, but continued and wrap-around support has brought the immeasurable benefit of people developing real relationships with peers who in turn link them into what is happening in their locality.
Chris and Wayne have already started talking about their experiences in Housing First, as a client and a peer mentor, and how it has made such a difference. This weekend Wayne stayed with Chris at a residential conference for those recovering from drug addictions. Chris saw people he knew with longer standing addictions; leading positive lives free from those addictions that had once held them back. ‘He can see there is a way out’ said Wayne. Housing First has given him that perspective and a chance for a different future.