“I’m scared that once I go into the system, I won’t come out. Instead I sleep on the night bus until I go to college in the morning. I look forward to college. It makes me feel normal.”
People told us that they wanted to feel normal. In some circumstances people were avoiding accessing services out of fear of becoming trapped and labeled. Staying on the streets or sofa-surfing was a way of clinging onto some form of normality.
What has been striking from both these conversations and those included in ‘Wisdom from the Street’, is the desire to feel normal. Yet the current system does the opposite, creating the powerless and hopeless ‘victim personae’. While the focus of many services has been to ‘empower’ by helping people gain confidence and self-belief, there is little recognition that these services are based on a system that continually focuses on weaknesses and deficits. By pathologising normal responses to trauma, people accessing these services are often left alienated and disenfranchised.
Mayday believes there is an urgent need for a total change in the systems people experience when going through a tough time. Time must be spent unlearning what is currently perceived as good practice and, without being flippant, treat people as people.
The Mayday team have started to look at all the nuanced ways that we inadvertently dehumanise people. Changing the system can feel overwhelming, but we can start small – for example, swapping ‘Housing Assessments’ for ‘Housing Conversations’. The latter aims to move us from assessing whether we want to accommodate a person, to seeing if we have suitable accommodation for a person.