It has been nearly a year since I joined the GM Housing First and it’s hard to believe how much happened so far.
My role of the Embedded Researcher for the Housing First Evaluation has allowed me to gain a wealth of insight into how teams have been operating on the ground and on strategic levels to make the program work to it’s full potential.
And over the past few weeks, with additional challenges presented by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Looking back at the pre-Covid world, I can say that meeting people in their homes, temporary accommodation or other places of their choice, spending time with Housing First Workers, as well as working with the Co-production Panel have quickly made me feel like being part of something special.
This unique feeling of togetherness, mutual support and just being human has stood out for me when witnessing staff in action, no matter what role within the program.
The success of involving some of the people on the program in taking part in the baseline stage of the Housing First Evaluation could not have happened without the relationship between support workers and people who they support.
As one of the evaluation participants remarked, they wouldn’t have talked to me if not for the trust they put in their Housing First worker who made the introduction.
Having met some of the people on different occasions I was moved to see the change in their situations- in one instance I barely recognised the person who was doing incredibly well once having moved to their new home and was taking steps to reclaim those aspects of life which had been beyond control whilst sleeping rough, such as health and drug addiction.
Considering that this was during the first year of Housing First, I am very excited to be able to meet people at different stages of their life throughout the duration of the Pilot, and to talk with them about the changes which will have happened since they started working with Housing First.
This is not to say that there won’t be, or haven’t been, challenges and setbacks which are a daily reality for participants and for the staff, and range from practical issues such as arranging for furniture delivery, trip to the local pharmacy; building relationships with support services, neighbours or estranged family members; health or/and addiction issues; to more systematic, such as access to statutory services or consistent, wrap around multiagency support.
Since the start of the lockdown my role has been adapted to working from home via telephone and online, like for many.
This has created an opportunity to speak to GM Housing First teams and some of the people supported by the Pilot to find out about their experience of managing during these challenging times. Resilience, adaptability and focus on the future have stood out as some of the main themes, for staff and for a number of people supported by the program.
Despite the new challenges on strategical, practical as well as psychological levels (lack of face to face contact being the main culprit), a wealth of innovative good practice within the Pilot and between different services has been highlighted.
From the feedback I gathered, adapting to the new normal, reflecting on challenges and new approaches, looking after one another in this new and unique situation have been key to keeping the show going.