“Imagine only spending time with your doctor, your dentist and your next door neighbour. Cabin fever anyone?”
When we asked people about their friends, they were more often than not other people experiencing homelessness. When asked about their support networks, these were support workers or other professionals. Opportunity to build genuine relationships with people outside of the sector was limited.
When we went deeper, it transpired that staff were uneasy about introducing ‘homeless people’ to the public as it was too risky and the public wouldn’t know how to handle challenging situations that may arise. People experiencing homelessness felt isolated from the community. They had no confidence to use community resources as they didn’t feel people would accept them.
Many staff were not trained in staff-client relationships and had created dependencies where people became ‘attached’ to their key worker or support worker. While trusting relationships are key, staff also needed to understand the negative impact of encouraging dependency.
We took action
We addressed the issue of dependency and made sure that a focus of the work was assisting people to have access to building a whole network of support and a number of trusting relationships. All Mayday coaches are now trained in power dynamics. We also introduced full time volunteers who assist people to build positive peer networks and take up opportunities in the community.
The PTS shifts the focus away from risk and keeping people apart from familiar acquaintances as they move on from hostels toward building genuine new friendship groups.