Opinion: Working to prevent homelessness through better connectivity
Anthony Morrow and Kevin Carr at Sanctuary Scotland’s Community Investment Team speak about Sanctuary’s approach to homelessness through better connectivity with those in tenancies as well as within the organisation.
Sanctuary’s Perspective, Anthony Morrow (Community Connector Manager)
The Housing and Community Connector role was a direct response to an identified gap between the Community Development work we delivered and the Housing Management team.
We were frustrated that some of the most marginalised people in the communities we work in weren’t benefitting from great community-led projects and local services that could support them.
We saw an opportunity to work more closely to support the Housing Management team with some of the most complex situations with tenants, focusing on those tenancies at highest risk of failure.
The role of Housing and Community Connector (HCC) was funded by the Scottish Government’s RSL Homeless Prevention Fund and began in April 2021, with one HCC based at our Priesthill office in Glasgow.
By working closely with the Housing Management teams and drawing on their expertise and experience we identify tenancies that we would consider at highest risk of failure.
Central to our approach are Kindness, Empathy and Trust and our simplest aim is to give people hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
We can become involved much further upstream than initially thought, and have even supported some tenants prior to taking up their tenancy. We are on our own journey as an organisation to understand Trauma and its impact not just on tenants and communities, but also on vicarious trauma and the impact on our staff.
This is all complex work, but the role of HCC is helping us make more sense of it. Trusting relationships are the absolute foundation of everything we do, and we work hard to develop and maintain these with everyone we interact with.
The impact has been even better than we’d hoped, with tenancies supported into more stable circumstances whilst addressing some long-standing issues affecting their lives. We are receiving referrals from partner organisations, family and community members and even self-referrals – we feel this is a good indicator of the type of work we are delivering.
Due to this impact, Sanctuary created two more HCC roles, based in Toryglen in Glasgow and Cumbernauld.
Worker Perspective, Kevin Carr (Housing and Community Connector)
In the past I’ve had experience of eviction/homelessness. It means I can understand and relate to some of the issues tenants will be going through.
I’ve been in post since April last year and the role was created to try and prevent homelessness upstream before it gets to eviction stage.
Given my personal situation, I can understand why some people may not want to engage with their Housing Officer even if it is to stop them being evicted from their home.
We believe there are many triggers and indicators that could show us a tenant is starting to struggle. Rent arrears is obviously the biggest, but it could be antisocial behaviour, addiction or mental health, among others.
If we can build trusting relationships with our tenants, we can become privy to some of these issues. Hopefully, this allows us to intervene and work on their behalf to help sign post to agencies that can help deal with these problems.
We will stay connected with the tenant to access these services and continue to advocate on their behalf to try and make this process as comfortable as possible.
Our consistent interactions with these tenants have proven we can build trusting relationships. We also do not promise tenants anything that we are not able to deliver. From our conversations with some tenants with past trauma, they really struggle to build trusting relationships as they feel they have been let down before.
We take a trauma informed approach and have seen first-hand the impact past events have on their lives.
Since I’ve been in post, we have had many success stories. One tenant with addiction issues for nearly 30 years was able to access the services she needed. We supported and advocated on her behalf to get her into a rehabilitation centre. She is now eight months clean and sober and hoping to volunteer in the rehab which helped her.
There have been lots of cases where we have engaged with tenants and their Housing Officer to agree on a rent arrears payment plan that will work. This saves them from more debt trying to pay what they cannot afford.
Hopefully the longer we are in these roles we will see further progress in helping to prevent evictions within Sanctuary.
- Anthony Morrow is Sanctuary Scotland’s community connector manager and Kevin Carr is housing and community connector