Categories
Awareness

Advice From A Senior Homeless Housing Officer

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I’m a Senior Homeless Housing Officer for one of the largest Council’s in Scotland. What I would say is, I don’t deal with ‘The Homeless’ or ‘Service Users’, I meet with folk with a name who find themselves either facing or in a housing crisis.  Like most crisis situations, homelessness does not discriminate, can and does happen to anyone.

Since the introduction of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2010, we are regulated. The Scottish Housing Regulator has this statutory duty:-

‘Safeguard and promote the interests of current and future tenants of social landlords, people who are or may become homeless, and people who use housing services provided by registered social landlords (RSLs) and local authorities’

We report to the regulator and are audited and assessed.

My day is difficult to plan and can be unpredictable. On any given day we can have a family fleeing domestic abuse or harassment with only the clothes they are standing in to a young person who has been asked to leave the family home to a home being repossessed due to a Husband/Wife hiding a gambling/shopping addiction and running up debts to someone long term sofa-surfing or sleeping rough. We also have pre-planned appointments as we will see anyone faced with homelessness within the next 2 months.

As the Homeless Service is regulated, the team I work in are well versed on the current legislation, work to the Homelessness Code of Guidance and receive on-going training – contrary to what some might think of the ‘Cooncil no having a clue’. I have studied for and passed Shelter’s Home point qualification and currently studying towards a Housing Diploma in the evening.

Completing a homeless application – do I have to know your housing history, YES. Do I need to know why you have become or about to become homeless, YES. All Councils in Scotland will take you through the very same procedure and will explain you need to meet the following:

Are you homeless or about to made homeless in the next 2 months ?

Are you intentionally homeless ?

Do you have a local connection to the Local Authority ?

The Council has 28 days to make a decision. The onus isn’t really on the person to prove they are homeless and the Council will always give benefit of doubt however, we will challenge anyone presenting with a current tenancy or own property and seek an explanation. Situations such as Domestic Violence are not really investigated and you do not need a Local Connection.

Tenancy sustainment and prevention is huge and something the Scottish Government is committed to, the Housing Options and Homeless Prevention Service we offer is also assessed. Should anyone find themselves faced with a threat of homeless but it might not be in the next 2 months, we will meet with you and review your housing situation through the Prevention and Housing Options route. We always aim to keep a Family in their home unless its unsafe and will not deny anyone a Homeless Interview should they feel Housing Options is not the best route. What I would stress here is overcrowding is not a reason for homelessness and by overcrowding I mean 2 kids sharing a bedroom is not a disgrace, different matter if it’s 5 in a bedsit.

We can negotiate on your behalf with Private Landlords and Mortgage Lenders and will work with the Courts regarding mortgage and rent arrears – sometimes postponing eviction action until you receive an offer of permanent re housing and save the use of Temporary Accommodation.  We know what a valid Notice to Quit looks like and we will challenge any Landlord when the notice is invalid (which a LOT are !) and also if your property is in a state of disrepair.

The Council are the face of Government policies and as such we face the frustrations of the Public but for me the most difficult part is dealing with Rooflessness, challenging behaviour and managing expectations. For Rooflessness and challenging behaviour, 1 in 3 folk sleeping rough in Glasgow have been barred from temporary accommodation (can be found on Shelter’s website) – this might not be something you want to hear or agree with but doesn’t change that this is a reality and happens at least once a week, if not a day. I hate this part of my job but we will always work with the person towards permanent re housing and tenancy sustainment. The reasons they have been evicted or barred are too many to mention but some are as simple as non payment of rent to the more complex of intimidating behaviour (a minority). I would stress that intimidating behaviour isn’t exclusive to homelessness by a long shot, not even close. We all face setbacks and make mistakes, working with challenging behaviour is certainly not easy but not impossible. The most difficult part can be getting the person to engage with Services put in place and Support won’t always work the first time or 2nd, 3rd, or 4th.. Anyone working in any Support Services will confirm this.

Rooflessness and long term rough sleeping can and is difficult, there can often be mental health or addiction and there is no magic solution with the road to recovery long. To judge someone this way without knowing the story or the person is wrong on so many levels. Ongoing support needs to be offered and easily accessible. We don’t live in an ideal world where everything is all fluffy, some are less fortunate than ourselves and aren’t blessed with a strong circle of family and friends.  For example, some people there only friends are other addicts – how do you break this cycle ? Would you like to cut ties with the only friends you have, the only friends you feel accept you ?

This brings me onto Support Services – absolutely no doubt there is a shortage of affordable and social housing but this papers over some of the cracks for me. If it was really this simple, why do I regularly meet folk who are on their 4th/5th/6th – 12th homeless presentation and have been re housed on more than one occasion ? If anyone has the answer here, I would be grateful as we are always looking to improve this and report to the Regulator on repeat presentations. We also look at Permanent Tenancies that fail within 12 months and need foresight, not hindsight.

Our Housing Support Service is offered and assessed at the initial homeless interview – this can be budgeting, accessing welfare benefits, registering with a GP, accessing other services (e.g. Woman’s Aid, Addiction etc), befriending and social inclusion or just simply moral support. We also have Family Support Services and Intensive Support Services- sometimes this is outsourced and we joint work with organisations such as Shelter Support Services. We will look at previous tenancies and the reasons they failed.

Foodbanks are growing however we have for a long time provided emergency food parcels via a Charity organisation – the fact foodbanks are growing is another story and an affront to the powers that be of Great Britain. As we are a Support Service, we can access the food parcels and token system for foodbanks however, the other side. We have the not so nice job of asking the questions of why they are using foodbanks – have their benefits been sanctioned, if yes – why ? What support and assistance can we offer to resolve this ?  Is there budgeting issues, do they have gas and electricity to cook the food and heat the property ? This is just a very small sample and again doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the questions being asked, benefit sanctions leaves the family with no income or housing benefit and practical help is needed. Outrage at benefit sanctions alone doesn’t put food on the table or heat a house.

We also have to plan in Child Protection or Adult Support and Protection multi-agency meetings that we attend – this is far from easy or ‘interesting’ and is most likely about someone we’ve met and got to know. For an Adult who is subject to Adult Support and Protection we are ensuring a care support plan and package is in place to ensure the Adult can live in their home and feel safe.

Temporary Accommodation – we have a statutory duty to provide this should you find yourself in a roofless situation. We have our own Temporary furnished flats, properties we lease from Private Landlords, emergency hostel type accommodation and Supported Accommodation. B&B accommodation is unsuitable but can be used as a last, short term resort. The Council do not manage all their accommodation but joint work with organisations such as Salvation Army, Blue Triangle, Y People and more. Part of my job is to attend budget meetings and problem solving – again a reality, no matter what your opinion is of budgets, these services do not run on fresh air. Another brutal reality of benefit sanctions, housing benefit is not paid and if you do not engage with Support Services/DWP/Housing Benefit section to resolve this, the placement in temporary accommodation can be lost. Rent income is any Housing Services main and sometimes only source of income.

Temporary Accommodation can be part of the ‘managing expectations’ that I find difficult at times. We can only offer what we have on that day and it can take some families right out of their comfort zone, this is something I understand and sympathise with. Kids are at School in a specific area, your family/friends support is in a specific area and we cannot offer accommodation there. You feel ‘dumped’ in a strange area, difficult and demoralising. Never mind if its hostel type accommodation ! We will always prioritise a family with kids to get them moved out of hostel type accommodation and look to avoid this but not always possible. I’m not immune where my job is concerned and have lost countless night’s sleep and will probably continue to do so with more budget cuts heading our way. It’s very difficult to switch off and there are often ‘that’s it, I need a new job’.

With our own accommodation we manage this ourselves within the Homeless Team and need a quick turnover due to demands on our service. However we face problems with electricity and gas suppliers particularly with prepayment meters and repairs etc. This is all time consuming and frustrating.

When I go into work tomorrow, I have no idea what it will bring.

The guys at See The Invisibles are being very practical, are off their backside and doing this work in their own time, they have been absolutely fantastic !

Categories
General Article

Me and The Invisibles

By Tara
By Tara

December 17, 2014

As Christmas and new year approaches, it seems the done thing to quietly contemplate the year gone by and reflect on all the ups and downs you’ve encountered along the way.

For me, it’s been a very bittersweet year.

It started out very busy, volunteering at my local foodbank where I was working my wee socks off and making a real difference within my local community.

Social media had played a massive role in my work there and continued to do so as I basically annoyed the life out of anyone who would listen. About foodbanks, charity work, poverty and the blatant inequality that was so evident to me, but not to everyone else. Or so it seemed.

Through twitter I had met some pretty amazing people who were like minded and determined to make a difference.

I happened across a tweet about homelessness in Glasgow.

Having been homeless for a spell myself, it was (and still is) a subject close to my heart.

These tweets were poignant.

They identified a real issue in Glasgows city centre by a railway worker who had noticed the stark numbers of people sleeping rough as he finished up on his nightshifts.

It became quite apparent that this guy, although a grumpy old sod, had a real desire to do something about this huge citywide problem.

I was in!

How could I help? What could I do?

Id developed a real passion for helping others where I could and was happy to try and link in with the contacts I was lucky enough to have made through the Foodbank.

From there, The Invisibles was born.

A community group who would act, in effect, as the middle man in arranging collections of clothes and sleeping bags then distributing them between the main homeless charities in Glasgow.

The name was never in question for, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’ve all walked by someone sitting on the pavement without a seconds thought about the whys or where fors that led them to this place of rest.

Many would rather they were invisible and have already created a scenario that excuses the ignorance before walking by them.

This person is someone’s son or daughter, a brother or sister. A parent, an uncle, a friend.

We knew it would take off. We believed whole heartedly in the spirit of the public and that it would bring people together when faced with a real opportunity to help another.

I don’t think we envisioned just how successful we would become in such a short period of time.

I was offered a job, a job coordinating a Foodbank. So, I had to take a step back for a spell but kept an eye on the goings on with a firm view that once I found my feet in my job, I could then get stuck in again with this group that I had been involved with from it’s inception.

The job was (is) going great then I lost my wee mum in July.

Therein lies the bittersweet.

I am immensely proud of each and every one of them. Each bringing unique skills to the table but overall, the desire to help others who for whatever reason, are experiencing issues severe enough to render them homeless/roofless/stuck on the streets, is the main factor is keeping us going.

2015 will be a great year for us. We will continue to help where we can and intend to keep those less fortunate than ourselves at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Be warned!

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2015!

Tara

Original Content at: http://taragmaguire.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/the-invisbles/

You can follow Tara on Twitter @mag_tara

Categories
Awareness

Real visible people power.

 

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So where to start?

Well it started with a tweet, then 2 blogs, a dm or 2 swapped, then a meeting was set. The Invisibles were born.

Now a call was made to the folks on twitter, an idea conjured in the mind of one guy seemed to stir worrying, even painful feelings of a mostly hidden reality, something clicked in many heads. People researched, added personal and professional experiences ensuring as much fact and reality was available to assist the group in developing meaningful aims and goals. Through considered discussion and utilising the obvious talents at our disposal these were quickly set.

So the task was in hand, we will collect sleeping bags and warm clothing for our roofles/homeless and those in fuel poverty.

Initial contact was made with the wonderful volunteers at http://www.waysidecentre.org.uk with colleagues visiting and calling asking for advice and to explain our idea. I can confidently say this certainly energised @Invisiblesthe and with the support of community/housing workers in the east end of Glasgow our first collection was organised in The Church of the Nazerene on Easter Sunday. More than 25 bags of clothes, blankets and footwear donated. A humbling start indeed. We again would like to say thank you for this generosity.

During discussions at meetings, email or on the phone (The Chairman likes a wee call but more on that later….maybe) we looked for the idea of a large scale collection. We spoke about football games, contacting camping suppliers and many other considerations.  T in the Park was briefly mentioned at an early meeting but like many idea’s in the planning stages of a project, they get lost in the flow. Well it came back on the agenda quick. Now many will not realise how quickly the TITP collection was brought together and the fabulous work carried out behind the scenes on social media by some in the group to raise awareness of this drive. Quite fantastic effort by all involved. Thousands of leaflets distributed at Buchanan Street Bus Station and a twitter and facebook mini frenzy ensued. The groovy hipsters (Ah the good old days) got it and with a massive 500 bag donation from @tangerinefields more than 1300 sleeping bags were donated and then collected by an ever growing team of Invisibles working away from the fields of TITP to the bus station. We are delighted and again humbled by this astonishing reponse. THANK YOU XXX

We would like to thank the many people who responded to the request for assistance in the sorting, washing and distribution of the TITP collection. Some interesting finds I’m told : )  I can reasonably suggest many a washing machine and car were being worked hard. Would like to make a special mention to those who travelled from and to Stirling and all using personal transport to assist. Last word on TITP. We have realised we now have access to an ever growing, caring and positive group of people willing to Stay The Course. Hold on tight folks who knows where this is going : )

http://www.waysidecentre.org.uk  http://wwwglasgowcitymission.com  received considerable donations. A soup kitchen in Hamilton received assistance too. All very grateful.

Now as the dust settles we ask ourselves what next? Getting cold soon, folks will need our support more than ever.

We would like to propose a suggestions link to our social media sites, ideas that could be brought to meetings and possibly actioned. We have always said our group is a collective, a collective of people, minds and ideas. We are not, nor will we ever be an exclusive club so get your ideas in folks.

The group are in or have been in discussions with several other organisations including http://www.ghn.org.uk this highlights the positive buzz around The Invisibles and progress made in such a short time.

Thank you to each and every soul who donated and gave up their own time to grow this idea. You are all special people.

Special mention to our friends who removed the anti rooflessness barriers in St.Vincent Lane. More positive action for the right reason. Why wait eh.

Now a question for The Chairman. Remember me telling you the potential of this thing? When you first tweeted/blogged did you dare imagine, did you?  Look what has been achieved.

People are amazing we just need to remember that sometimes.

Take care my friends.

visible2me (The Invisibles)

original article and some pics from http://visible2me.wordpress.com/

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Categories
Awareness

Invisibles Winter Collection Statement

INVISIBLES-4.jpgThe Invisibles are a small independent charity initiative committed to helping homeless people and homeless charities in Glasgow.We formed after our founder, Dermot Hill wrote an internet blog on the issue of homelessness in early February, highlighting the homeless problem in Glasgow and asking for help on this from fellow Glaswegians.

Dermot works on railway maintenance and has been very concerned at the plight of Glasgow’s homeless, after seeing them nightly while he has been working night shifts on the railway lines.After Dermot put out his appeal, the group arranged their first meeting a few nights later, to discuss what we, as a group could do to help the homeless of Glasgow.

We then had a series of meetings in the Parkhead Housing Association over the next few months where we could decide how we as a group could help the homeless.All members of the group have put a lot of time and effort into the initiative and come from all different backgrounds, walks of life and have all brought different skill sets.

The group decided we would not collect money as we wanted to help the homeless through direct action – getting what they need and helping to deliver it to them, and the best way to do this would be to collect sleeping bags and clothing to donate to Homeless Shelters and Homeless Charities in Glasgow, such as The Wayside Club, The Glasgow City Mission, The Marie Trust and the Simon Community.

 The reason why we named our group The Invisibles has a double meaning:

  1.  The first meaning being that homeless people are regularly ignored by the public on the street, and society as a whole and we wanted to highlight this and help them.
  2. The second meaning is that our group members, while wanting to help the homeless, also wanted to remain invisible in the background, preferring any publicity given to our group rather than highlight us, highlight our collections, campaigns, donators and the homeless charities we help.

Our first collection was at the Church of Nazarene in Parkhead on Easter Sunday, where we collected 25 bags and assorted clothing items, which we then donated to The Wayside Club.

At the start of July, homeless barriers were erected in St Vincent Lane in Glasgow which caused great concern within the group, as they stop homeless people, who can’t find a shelter or a place to stay at night, from being able to sleep rough.Glasgow City Council gave the owner of the building involved in erecting the barriers seven days to take them down, but after some action by fellow Glaswegians, they were taken down the next morning.

The Invisibles group decided, on the Tuesday before T In The Park, to start a campaign to appeal to the T In The Park goers to ask them to donate to us their used sleeping bags when they were returning from the festival the following Sunday and Monday, so we could clean them and pass them onto Homeless Shelters and Charities to give to homeless people.The group appealed through our Twitter and Facebook accounts and contacted every Scottish newspaper, media and music outlet in Scotland and gave press interviews to highlight the sleeping bag appeal, from which we had an excellent response to, in both social media and the press.

Many people volunteered to help us in distributing flyers to the people going to T in The Park on the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the event and also to help us collect the sleeping bags on the Sunday and Monday when the festival finished.After a slow start on Sunday night, due to it mostly being day-trippers leaving the festival, we had an overwhelming response to our collection from the T in The Park goers coming back on the Monday morning, with around 500 bags collected, roughly another 100 donated from the collection point which we got arranged just outside the site and 500 in total being donated from Tangerine Fields, a private company who set up tents at T in The Park.Roughly 1,100 sleeping bags were collected, enough at estimates to keep the homeless in Glasgow warm for a year.

Quite a percentage of these bags had to be washed, and the following Wednesday we had more volunteers giving up more or their free time to sift through the uncleaned bags and take them away individually to wash them.The bags were washed, collected and were given to the homeless shelters in Glasgow and some to the Hamilton Soup Kitchen.The Wayside Club in Glasgow was fully stocked up with sleeping bags and The Glasgow City Mission had limited space left to take more sleeping bags.

We have built up and maintain a working relationship with The Glasgow Homelessness Network, – who release the numbers for the homeless in Glasgow and liaise with the Private and Public sector homeless charities and initiatives. They give us information and data regularly on how we can help out other Shelters and Homeless Initiatives in Glasgow.With this information, we have now been speaking directly to the main Glasgow Homeless Charities and Initiatives – The Glasgow City Mission, The Wayside Club, The Marie Trust and The Simon Community – To find out on a regular basis what they need and what the homeless or Glasgow need to be provided with.

We have now donated around 200 sleeping bags to the Simon Community for their Outreach program which gives the sleeping bags directly to homeless people sleeping rough in Glasgow.We have also also provided 60 sleeping bags to the Glasgow City Mission with sleeping bags for their indoor Winter Night Shelter and will be donating 170 quilts very soon.

The Invisibles Winter Collection Appeal was started in early September, to provide Sleeping bags and suitable winter clothing such as Hats, Scarves, Wooly Hats, Wooly Jumpers, Socks, Underwear and Old Boots for the homeless of Glasgow, for when it gets near winter time, when they need our help the most.Volunteers arranged clothing collections with their families, friends, schools and workplaces for us, while The Parkhead Housing Association, Easterhouse Community Church and Molly’s Cosy Cafe in Shawlands served as our drop off points, where Glaswegians could take their Winter Clothing Items for us to collect.

We had a massive response, so much so, that we do not need any more clothes at the moment as we are full with donations, ready to be delivered soon to the Homeless Charities in Glasgow and the some of the surrounding areas.We also took part in the Glasgow Rucksack Project 2014 Appeal at the Gorbals Legal Aid Centre on Sunday December 7th, where roughly 8000 Rucksacks were collected, doubling their total of 4000 in 2013, with many Mens and Womans’s clothing items, Sleeping Bags, Food and Toiletries collected in the Rucksacks, going directly to the Glasgow Homeless charities and straight to help the Homeless of Glasgow.

As a result of the Rucksack Project, aided by our collection and by many others in the City, The Glasgow Homeless Charities are now full until after new year, an excellent achievement by all involved and showing again the excellent generosity and warm hearts of the people of the City of Glasgow.

The Invisibles are pleased to announce we are running the Glasgow Rucksack Project 2016, passed on from the excellent Lorna McLean and hope it will be an ever bigger success next year and all volunteers are more than welcome to attend and help.We are also looking into starting a T In The Park campaign earlier next year, which with earlier planning, we are hoping will be even more successful than this summer’s one.

In the next few weeks, we will be looking to volunteers to help sort through the remainder of our Invisibles Winter Collection Appeal, if you are interested, please contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

If you would like to know more about the group, or to help with future collections and appeals, or or if you are a Local Business in Glasgow and you would like to act as drop off points for us in future appeals, or to provide much needed storage space to our group, you can find out more about us and also contact us at our twitter handle @Invisiblesthe and our Facebook Page See The Invisibles.