Robert Kennedy: Housing First support lets people move on

The Housing First Scotland Pathfinder programme launched officially in April 2019 in Aberdeen/shire, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling after a ramping-up period from August 2018, two years ago this week, when the first tenants moved into properties in Glasgow allocated to the fledgeling Pathfinder. The Salvation Army has been providing Housing First support in the city since then and today continues alongside partner organisations in the Housing First Consortium in Glasgow. Robert Kennedy – Housing First support worker with The Salvation Army, describes his experience over the past two years.

I work with the Salvation Army providing support to people accessing the Housing First service in Glasgow. The team that I work in are highly skilled and committed to helping people improve their overall life experience. It is rooted in a harm reduction approach, based on trauma informed practice, strength based and person-centred approaches. Our services put people first, creating choice and opportunity. We offer services that meet people’s needs now and promote their long-term well-being into the future.

We support people to become part of a community they choose – and if that community doesn’t exist, we help them build one. The Salvation Army’s part in that is to encourage people to start thinking about what they like? What makes them happy? What do they enjoy doing? What they are good at? What they want or don’t want from life?

We ask people who use our Housing First service what works well. Aside from the relationship with their support worker and the support service, the overwhelming response is always, ‘moving into a house that is a home’. Not having to get a loan of a mattress, wait for benefits to get a kettle, microwave or food shopping. Not having to listen to your neighbour’s television through the wall because you don’t have, and can’t afford, your own. Instead people are moving into a home where everything is in place. People said this makes them feel safe, secure and valued.

One person we support had been homeless for 14 years, 12 spent sleeping rough on the streets of Glasgow and two years in various forms of emergency accommodation. He had given up on ever having a place to call home. He felt he had no control or input into his situation. Over many years this person’s expectations of services provided for people were at rock bottom. He had no hopes or dreams for the future.

After the first night in his new home told us it had been the best sleep he could remember in the 14 years since he first experienced homelessness. He said he felt safe for the first time in all these years because he had his own front door and very quickly started to feel in control of his life.

This is the kind of positive outcome we strive for. To hear someone say they can finally move on with their life, after spending so much of it simply trying to survive, means everything.

As partners we work together with a shared vision and commitment, we aim to create the best the possible opportunities for everyone; a culture of compassion, connection and a place where everyone has the “right” home for them.

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