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Homelessness vs Houselessness

Home is where the heart is.

We cannot begin to understand the sense of discomfort, fear and despair the 300,000 people currently homeless or living in temporary accommodation experience on a daily basis. From the rough sleepers who have become a familiar sight in our cities, to the hidden homeless, sofa surfing or living in shelters, the problem is rife.

The Wolverhampton city motto is “Out of Darkness Cometh Light”. Our aim at Lotus Sanctuary is to be the light that counters the darkness of homelessness.

We provide housing across the UK and will soon have the ability to house 600 people in transitional supported housing, offering them a two year stay with the support needed to blossom into independence. Some may say 600 units of accommodation is an achievement. We say it’s not even a start.

Combating houselessness is an issue in and of itself with a shortage of housing in the UK. But homelessness is something we are only starting to realise is a deeper issue, an issue that sits deep within the hearts and minds of our residents. More than an issue of bricks and mortar, it’s an issue of trust and trauma. A house isn’t always a home.

A woman who has sought drugs as a way to escape past or on-going violence, only to find herself in a male dominated hostel or sleeping on the streets needs more than a house or flat to solve her problems.

As an industry we need to work with our residents to create that same sense of belonging that we all feel at home. That can only be done by a multi-pronged approach. A holistic, person centred program, tailored to fit the resident’s needs and requirements.

No two people are the same, so no two support plans should be the same. We cannot continue to break people down into “client groups”. An individual should be treated as such. Residents should be put at the centre of the support they receive and given autonomy to make important decisions like their choice of support worker, relocation region and type of property.

A homeless woman who has suffered years of abuse from a partner, who has lost all autonomy and sense of self, shouldn’t immediately be told, this is your support worker, support plan, house rules and our expectations of you on day one of moving into a new property. They need time to adjust, to
get comfortable and gather their bearings.

If we are aiming for residents to be prepared to live independently and hold a job after 2 years, we need to utilise that time effectively. Each resident will be different, meaning each “pathway to independence” will look different, as well as the end results of said pathway. Some residents will not need the full 2 years, but we should anticipate that most will need the full length of time to progress.

A “typical” resident at Lotus currently has complex issues and needs. Generally speaking, an average resident would have at least two, if not more of the following issues: physical/mental trauma, class A drug addiction, mental health conditions, sex working, criminal reoffending and alcoholism.

A house does not solve any of these issues, nor does it even begin to address the above. Thus, homelessness vs houselessness. Can a person with those on-going issues feel a sense of home? We must first address those issues. We must assist and empower these residents. We must rebuild their well-being as we also rebuild their sense of normality.

If we take a person centric multifaceted approach to ending homelessness, we can turn houses into homes and turn trauma into healing. We can be the light that shines out of the darkness.