We have now completed the first year of our SAFE (Service for Adults Facing Exclusion) project and we are keen to share some of the outcomes with our supporters.
The individuals supported through SAFE are entrenched rough sleepers with severe multiple complex needs.
All 7 individuals suffered some form of traumatic experience in childhood and adulthood. In using an active engagement approach to establish open, trusting relationships with clients has enabled effective dialogue. The combination of limited experience, poorly developed coping skills, and low self-esteem with multiple support needs has presented SAFE the real challenges in delivering support. The core approaches taken by SAFE are to encourage independent living skills, support engagement with health and support services and generally build up capacity to self-care and self-manage, processes that could be combined with efforts to promote self-esteem by helping someone feel more capable. This means in some cases never dealing with a single issue, it is always a set of interconnected support needs that have to be addressed. At times the support has been defensive, reactive interventions to crisis.
Due to the entrenched and complex needs of the cohort it is unrealistic to expect significant changes and milestones to be achieved by all those accessing SAFE. However in order to learn whether the project is successful it is important to know what progress has been made and understand the way in which those things can be measured.
Two clients were referred to Streetlight Psychotherapy in the first year. The flexible approach offered has resulted in 1 client having a meaningful therapeutic relationship and the opportunity to have the space to talk through significant underlying issues that have impacted on his life.
Re-establishing relationships with family members has been successful for 4 clients. SAFE initiated mediation with 1 client and a family member, initially facilitating fortnightly meetings. They now meet of their own accord weekly and have a meaningful relationship. 1 client now visits his mother on a fortnightly basis having been estranged for a number of years. Another client was supported to trace and contact a family member that he had not seen or contacted for over 40 years.
Although SAFE was never intended to be primarily an accommodation service, using the Housing First Model has been revolutionary and has provided an effective response to chronic homelessness because it is supportive, respects the individual and their choices and regards housing as a human right. In delivering this model the flexibility of support has had to allow for high intensity support provision and a commitment to working with clients for as long as they need support. 3 of the clients housed have been homeless for over 10 years, 2 for over 15 years and 1 had been rough sleeping for over 40 years, having never had a home since childhood. It is anticipated that housing stability creates stability in terms of service contact which will result in use of mainstream services rather than emergency services at a reduced cost.