Good Shepherd Move On From Housing First

After five years delivering the Housing First project, the Good Shepherd has decided to refocus its operations and move on from working on the initiative which supports people with complex needs within their own accommodation.

The national pilot scheme for Housing First has now come to an end, the Good Shepherd having worked closely first with Wolverhampton Homes for the first four years, and then P3 since January, 2023, providing a range of tailored one-to-one support to a large number of people across the city.

The City of Wolverhampton Council has commissioned Housing First to keep operating at a local level, continuing to be run by P3, but the Good Shepherd has decided to channel more resources into providing more help with mental health & wellbeing, support for people who are street homeless, advice and support for people to maintain their tenancies,  the AFEO programme for ex-offenders and an increased meaningful activity programme.

Tom Hayden, CEO at the Good Shepherd, says: “Housing First has been a really worthwhile project over the last five years.

“Our staff have helped deliver some really positive success stories with clients who were previously rough sleeping and affected by complex issues such as addiction and severe mental health challenges.

“We have seen people with a long history of street homelessness and trauma, who have been excluded from services, be given the opportunity and support to not only manage their own accommodation – many for the first time in years – but also thrive and make progress.

“Housing First has made considerable strides forward but has not been without its challenges, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff who have worked on the project for delivering such intense and demanding roles to a really high standard. 

“They have gone above and beyond in their dedication and professionalism to support their clients, and built up strong working relationships based on trust and respect with people who felt failed and let down with nowhere else to turn. I must also say a huge thank you to the team at Wolverhampton Homes who were involved from day one and helped make such a huge difference to people’s lives.

“Overall, it has been a really positive experience for all of us over the last five years, and offered so many learnings and experiences which we will take forward to the benefit of the Good Shepherd and the wide range of support we provide to people accessing our services.”

In total, 52 people with a history of homelessness, multiple disadvantages and complex needs have been housed and provided with intensive support since the project began, including people who had been homeless for three decades or more.  Breakthroughs with Housing First clients have included people addressing their addiction issues, receiving financial advice and being able to access benefits and having access to doctor and dentist appointments, all of which has included the Good Shepherd working closely with other agencies.

On top of the practical benefits, clients have also developed their skills and experiences and increased their confidence and self-esteem by volunteering within the Good Shepherd’s dining service, attending art/photography classes and having their work exhibited in exhibitions, taking part in podcasts and media interviews, and speaking at events. This included being part of the British Art Show which took place in Wolverhampton in 2022.

Among the staff working on Housing First as Key Worker Paul Burns, who won a national award last year when winning the Unsung Hero accolade at the prestigious Third Sector Awards.

All Good Shepherd staff who were working on Housing First will all remain with the charity and continue to offer support for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage, delivering many different services alongside the food operation which continues to help individuals and families suffering from poverty.

“Our mission statement is to end homelessness, support recovery and create pathways out of poverty, and that is what we will continue to aim to deliver,” adds Tom.

“The rough sleeper numbers have been increasing as have the challenges around mental health and wellbeing, particularly in the wake of the pandemic and cost of living crisis.

“We will continue to work closely with partner agencies and charities across the city to ensure people in Wolverhampton have access to the support they need at such a challenging time.

“We wish P3, and all involved, every success with the continuation of Housing First, safe in the knowledge that those in the programme will still be welcome to access appropriate services at the Good Shepherd such as our food service, meaningful activity programme and associated initiatives.”

The Good Shepherd have been working with P3 for several weeks during the handover period to ensure as smooth a continuation as possible for clients involved in the Housing First programme.

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WHAT THE CLIENTS SAID

Darren: “If you think about anybody’s situation, the foundation of anybody’s problem is having accommodation.  You can’t open a bank account or do anything in society without an address.  Cardboard boxes just don’t cut it.  Housing First have the right approach by housing you first and tackling your drug problems after.  If you have somebody who is addicted to drugs, they are using the drugs to numb the pain of being homeless.  If you tackle the homelessness first, everything else will fall into place.  From being homeless, sleeping in a tunnel or the back of a shop – anywhere I could find shelter – the Good Shepherd more or less rescued me. In world where there is a lot of hate and hurt and judgement, they have shown me that somebody does care.”

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Andrew: “I had a wonderful day at the Black Country Living Museum and enjoyed every minute.  The Housing First support staff that took me were amazing – they put a smile on my face and made me feel happy for the first time in a long time.  All my issues were forgotten on the day and it made me feel human again.”

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Danny: “It feels like I have got my life back, 100 per cent.  I feel like a different person, and that is what people are telling me as well.  The life I have had before, it’s just exhausting, there was nowhere to go to escape from it all because the addiction just controls you.  Now though, I feel like I have something to look forward to, and something to get up for every day for and be motivated.”

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Samantha: “I have known the Good Shepherd and particularly (Housing First Key Worker) Paul Burns for many years, and they have been a constant support. They have helped me get into my flat, helped get my mental health stable, and I really don’t know where I would be without them. With Housing First and the Good Shepherd, I always knew that if I could stick with them, I would get off the drugs and get off the streets, and not feel the need to go back. It’s just really nice to know there are people out there who will help me.”

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David J: “It got to a stage where being homeless was the normality for me.   It’s pretty much all I have known throughout my adult life.  And it was only when I started accessing the support network at the Good Shepherd that I truly realised how bad I actually was.  I need to thank Dawn and the Good Shepherd for what they are doing for me, they have been absolutely amazing.  I couldn’t have got to where I am now without them, they are always there for me and have been fantastic.”

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David E: “From an early age I have known the Brothers – I lived in the Good Shepherd on and off from when I was 18 and they have always helped me.  Now with the Housing First programme I have my own flat and have been supported by Paul and Dawn.  They have helped me so much, with my drug addiction, giving me food, getting me a mental health assessment – so much support.  They always help me and it breaks my heart to see them disappointed in me sometimes. That’s why I want to do better, and want to stay stable, which is the main thing.”

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