To mark World Homeless Week, Rob Payne, our director of homeless services, shares how Two Step helps people rebuild their lives.*
By Rob Payne
Gaining a deeper understanding of homelessness began when I was a ‘stopover’ host while working as a teacher – my wife and I would have people who had been surviving on the streets stay for a couple of nights while the ‘Two Step’ team at HOPE worldwide helped them find somewhere to live. There were common factors, but every story was unique – for example, I remember listening in amazement to an author telling us how he was evicted by bailiffs while working on his next book because the landlord hadn’t been paying the mortgage. The wise saying, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ came to life as we hosted many people from all walks of life and shared a meal at our kitchen table; we even hosted someone who told us all about watching the Beatles live at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in the early 60s!
Little did I know that these experiences would be instrumental in me transitioning from teaching to being part of the ‘Two Step’ team at HOPE worldwide –– striving to grow in our compassion and effectiveness, making the most of changes in technology, and incorporating principles of strengths-based practice and trauma-informed care.
Adverse childhood experiences make it much more likely that people will experience rough sleeping. Two out of three people who sleep rough experienced violence between parents/carers, almost 60 percent had a parent/carer with a drug or alcohol problem and around 50 percent were sexually and/or physically abused as a child. Rough sleeping is dangerous and traumatic — the average age of death for a rough sleeper is 47 for a man and 43 for a woman.
Many of the 200 people per year Two Step helps to find housing are ‘hidden homeless’. We housed them before the goodwill of friends and family ran out, before they had to try and survive on the streets. As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure’, and we hold on to that principle at Two Step.
Here is just a sample of those we have been able to help:
Stefan was housed close to his children, so that he could pick them up from school and be part of their lives again after being too ashamed for them to see him while he was homeless.
Linda felt so much better after finally having her own space that she was able to land a job with a famous toy manufacturer and rebuild her life brick by brick!
Brett was sleeping in a freezing cold van because his relationship broke down. Finding a place to live enabled him to get back on his feet, study, get a qualification and find work in construction.
The system to help people experiencing homelessness doesn’t work for many — they may be entitled to funds that will help them pay rent, but if they can’t find a landlord who will accept them — and don’t have the funds for a deposit — they remain homeless.
For nearly 30 years, HOPE worldwide has built relationships with landlords, letting agents and other accommodation providers. We visit them, help them sort out issues, and work with them to improve property and service standards. Most of the landlords we work with don’t require deposits if they know that we will help them find good tenants and make sure the rent is going to be paid.
This means we can offer a range of options to the hundreds of people that night shelters, day centres, local authorities and other charities refer to our service every year. Working with people who are referred to us means that we spend most our time helping people, rather than explaining why we can’t help — last year we directly helped 200 people find housing, and our advice helped many more to find accommodation elsewhere.
Whilst we get some funding for this service, it is not enough for all our costs, so we need to fundraise to cover the rest. For example, half of the funds raised from the 2022 HOPE worldwide Fundraising Challenge will help us work with people referred by homelessness day centres and night shelters.
If you would like to support our work with those experiencing homelessness, please click here to join the Challenge!
*names have been changed to protect confidentiality