Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Intentionally Homeless?

When I first heard the phrase intentionally homeless I assumed it referred to that tiny minority of homeless people who are impossible to house due to their substance misuse, criminal behaviour or inability to engage with services. Recently a story closer to home made me rethink.

Paul (not his actual name) was the first young person to lodge with me and was a fairly gentle introduction to my role as a Supported Living Carer. He had no complex needs, he had never been in trouble with the law and he was in full-time education. He was no more than vaguely acquainted with soap and his bedroom bordered on an environmental health risk but they are fairly typical teenage issues and things went fairly smoothly during his two years placed here.

His story prior to placement was a lot less eventful than many; he had been in a long-term foster placement most of his life and at 18 he needed a bit more freedom. Two and a half years after his arrival he had outgrown my home too, he wanted to bring girlfriends back to stay and come in whenever he wanted at night and at 20 that doesn't sound unreasonable so he progressed to semi-supported hostel accommodation for young people. So far, so good.

At this point things wobbled a bit, Paul didn't really stay in regular contact so I'm unsure of the details but about a year later he was asked to leave the hostel and he moved in with a newly discovered family member. He lived with her for about another year and then they argued and he was asked to leave there too. Then there was a homeless hostel, a bit of help from the council and fortunately, due to his un-troublesome background, he was found a room in a shared house. Successful end to the story.

Well it should have been except he's 23 at this point and still young enough to make a bad decision. He and his girlfriend were getting quite serious, she lived out of the area and encouraged him to move in with her. After living at his new address for about 3 months he left without giving the required notice because 28 days may as well be a year when you have to wait that long for the promise of regular sex. He moved in with the girlfriend and then they broke up eight months later. It was her flat so he was back to square one. Except this time the council won't help him as much as before because apparently he has made himself intentionally homeless

Now many young people of his age still live at home because rent costs so much but Paul doesn't have family to fall back on. He has sofa-surfed at a few friends' houses but even the best friend gets tired of that arrangement fairly quickly. He has spent a night or two in the homeless shelter and a couple more in the doorway of a local department store. Through very little fault of his own, due to being young and a bit too impulsive, he has become street homeless. It can happen far more easily than I imagined.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Moments to be Treasured

Youngster returned from custody to live back with me two weeks ago and the adjustment has been challenging for us both at times. For starters his room doesn't look much like the picture here right now and the bed hasn't been slept in as often as I would have liked.

However there have been modest successes: a first bank account opened, Job Centre appointments attended, a place on a training scheme secured and most significantly no arrests.

Best of all there have been treasured moments, like this day spent together at a local bike museum. Next time I am pulling my hair out in despair please remind me to look again at this post, good memories last a lifetime when the stresses are long forgotten.

Saturday, 5 March 2016


5 letters

I had a letter from Lad the other day, a care-leaver who has lived with me on and off for the last three years. His news is that he moved recently. He is sharing accommodation with an old friend and they are getting on well with each other and have a good social life from the sound of things. He is enrolled on a course to improve his Maths and English and has a part-time job as a catering assistant; he has also earned a place on the local football team. I really couldn't wish for better news, except that Lad and his mate share a prison cell rather than a flat and he has another 7 months to serve.

The letter saddened me because reading between the lines he sounds content, it sounds like he has returned home rather than been deprived of one. From age 14 to 21 he has mostly lived behind bars and he knows the routine, the rules, how to make friends and keep on the right side of people; skills which overwhelm him in the outside world. When in prison he engages with education, work and sport; in the community he leads a life of chaos.

Discussing these matters with his Probation Officer we were both at a loss to know what else could have been done to support him when he was last released. He had a supportive home, help to organise himself, a college interview and medical appointments arranged. These advantages alone gave him better odds of success than most released prisoners but ultimately the end result was still a return to custody. We both agreed that at some point something would just have to click and he would have to want to turn things around for himself; alternatively we could see an outcome where a more serious crime is committed and he finds himself "back home" for years rather than months.

I hope for the first option but suspect I could be his penpal for a while yet.