The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 is loneliness, and this week we’re sharing some of the ways housing and services can play a huge part in helping people feel connected and seen, from shared living complexes, to regular social trips, community walking groups and, in some cases, finally having a place to call home with your best friend.
Here’s Steven and Polar’s story…
Steven was our first Housing First Customer in Chesterfield and moved into his new home on the 23rd December 2020. Before moving into his flat Steven had lived in a tent for almost 2 years and struggled to access emergency accommodation due to owning a dog, Polar.
We know that for so many people their pets are their family, but can be a big reason for not being able to access safe housing, which is why we have allowed animals to live with Housing First customers like Steven.
“Polar is a 4-year-old Blue Merle collie. She’s my best friend and is the reason is I carried on day in day out, even when things got bad.
“Now I’ve got a roof over my head with Polar that is safe and comfy I don’t have to worry anymore about all the things I used to worry about when in my tent like, ‘How cold is it going to be tonight?’ or ‘If I go out, will my tent be there when I get back?’ (my tent was vandalised and set on fire a few times).
“My keyworker reassured me that I have a secure tenancy that’s mine for the rest of my life if I want it and if I play my cards right.
“One of the most amazing things to change is that I’m in contact with 3 of my kids again. Their mum was always happy for me to see them, but I didn’t want them visiting me in a tent. Since I’ve lived here, they’ve been over to see my flat and sat inside watching Sky TV while I’ve cooked for them and taken them out for walks or to the park with Polar.”
The Housing First model is proven to end homelessness, and works on the belief that housing is a basic human right. Housing First offers people who are experiencing homelessness, and that have multiple and complex needs, a home for life.
The model works by offering people a home, first – this acts as a stable foundation for recovery and to rebuild their lives. Housing First customers are supported to settle in their home, and to make choices about how they’d like to build on their strengths and meet their goals. Our customers do not have to access further support to be able to stay in their home, but flexible and personalised support is offered for as long as it is needed.
“I love that Hannah comes when she says she will and when I ask for her help with something, she just does it. Sometimes I don’t need anything, and we just have a chat and watch a bit of TV. I also like that if I’m not feeling like seeing her, she respects that and she says, ‘As long as I know you’re okay, I’ll leave you be’.
“She never just turns up on my doorstep, unless she’s bringing me some FairShare food (and even then, she tries to ring first) and when she arrives, she just hands it to me has a quick chat and then goes. It’s like living in supported accommodation but not if you know what I mean ‘cos I feel like it’s my home and I’m in control of who comes and goes.”
Steven is hoping to get back to work soon, to stop drinking, and to stay living in his flat as a council tenant when he’s ready.
We can’t wait to hear what Steven gets up to next, and we’re sure that Polar will be there every step of the way.