It’s so easy to fall into the devastating cycle of homelessness. Our customer Jimmy is an example of how easily this can happen. This is his story.
At 4 years old Jimmy and his younger brother were taken into care. His experience wasn’t a positive one and he was moved between different foster parents in different areas, and later separated from his brother after being sent to an approved school. During his time here Jimmy fell in with the wrong crowd and began offending, he received his first custodial sentence at just 14.
By 18, after numerous prison sentences, Jimmy left care and was placed in a bedsit. Friends he met in prison introduced him to heroin which then led to more serious offending and harsher prison sentences. Jimmy lost his home and soon found himself in a grim cycle of offending, going to prison and rough sleeping.
Remarkably, Jimmy did have periods of stability and success while battling his addiction. He started a family, found employment and graduated from university with a 2.1 degree in English Literature, but his addiction constantly jeopardised all of the potential breaks these achievements could have led to.
While he was serving a lengthy prison sentence Jimmy managed to overcome his addiction and after his release sofa surfed until he secured work and accommodation at a local pub. Unbeknown to him the pub was being repossessed and he was soon homeless again. He was desperate at this point and asked his local authority for help but his situation was “disbelieved” and he was offered a hostel in a different city 40 miles away.
Luckily, Jimmy managed to find himself a bed at a local hostel and it was there he was introduced to us at Concrete. He was offered a tenancy as part of our Supported Housing project, and finally, in his words, felt “heard, understood and most importantly respected”.
Jimmy later attended our Peer Mentor Training which helps customers with lived experience mentor new Concrete customers. A programme that has really worked for both peer mentors and customers, with 18 of the 22 placements leading to secure, paid employment.
Jimmy’s experience of leaving care also illustrates the importance of our Young Care Leavers project. This project sees care leavers and other young people offered tailored support alongside safe and secure accommodation. New laws now mean young people have to remain in education or find apprenticeships and training after leaving school. This is a really positive thing for most young people but how can we expect a care leaver, without a secure home and family support, to manage this?
Although our project is still in its infancy we’re already making positive moves here, as well as great success across our wider schemes and projects too. Since July 2018 our Floating Support project has prevented 31 people becoming homeless with 99% remaining in their tenancy. Our City Wide Supported Housing has seen 91% of customers achieve independent living, with 74% addressing their offending behaviour and 84% improving their mental health. Finally, our Refugee Support Service has assisted 85 refugee households resettle in the local community.
So, back to Jimmy…
I’m thrilled to say Jimmy now has a secure home, he has a job in the catering industry and will soon be mentoring a young care leaver.
This is fantastic news but Jimmy’s story shows just how easy it is to slip into a bad cycle. When he left care he was at a major crossroads in his life and didn’t realise how easy it was for things to go wrong. His story shows that we can’t just stay above the surface when the root causes of homelessness are far deeper and more complex than just providing a home.
I’m so proud of Concrete for going beyond the bricks and mortar to establish early awareness programmes, partnering with specialist agencies to provide mental health and addiction support, educating housing providers and creating projects to support and help those who are most vulnerable.
We’re creating systematic changes which address, not plaster over, the real issues to be a part of a movement creating real and lasting change.
Chief Executive of Concrete, part of Honeycomb Group and Placeshapers member