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Petrus reflects on being part of the GMHF pilot

Our Zone B lead Petrus reflects on the success of the GM Housing First pilot after the first two years.

We were absolutely delighted in 2019 when we found out that Petrus, part of The Regenda Group, had been successful in its tender to be a delivery partner on the Housing First pilot in Greater Manchester.

Now as we’ve recently moved into the third year of the pilot, we wanted to reflect on how far we’ve come since we first began to roll out the programme in Rochdale, Bury and Bolton.

What started as eight partners across GM has now expanded, with four more organisations joining us as we work towards the collective aim of rehousing more than 300 people in three years who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness and with whom traditional models of working had not been successful.

The 12 organisations are spread across all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs, split into four zones, with Petrus as the lead in Zone B covering support in Bolton, Bury and Rochdale alongside The Bond Board and our new partner Early Break who joined us at the start of 2021.

The journey to move away from homelessness can be difficult, but the Housing First approach recognises that individuals with multiple and complex needs need a stable home from which to rebuild their lives.

Over the two years, as a collective we’ve worked to provide permanent accommodation and long-term person-centred support to individuals to enable them to feel empowered to make positive changes and maintain their home, ultimately supporting people to have choice and control in their journeys.

To date, across all zones, 244 people have been rehoused and 429 people referred to the pilot; including 47 people who have now been supported into their property in our areas of Rochdale, Bury and Bolton.

Five of these individuals supported by Petrus have been living in their own home for more than six months and a further 10 people for over a year.

Our GMHF team at Petrus have supported vulnerable people with a variety of complex needs from all walks of life and many who had entrenched homelessness histories.

Support has included mental health wellbeing, substance misuse, physical health concerns, financial difficulties, support following trauma (including domestic abuse and sexual exploitation), offending behaviours and liaison with probation services.

While recovery is not always linear or easy, we’re pleased to say that nearly half of the individuals who reported mental health and offending support needs at the point of referral in Zone B areas have made positive progress.

We want to take this opportunity to recognise the amazing achievements of the individuals we’ve supported over these two years and to thank our team for their continued hard work and passion.

Reflecting on the support they’ve received, one service user said: “I have been in the system a long, long time and have never been given the opportunities presented to me by Housing First. Without this project and my positive working relationship with my Project Worker, my life would not have developed or improved.

“I don’t think I would have addressed my offending behaviour and substance misuse issues without the Housing First model and approach.

"I now feel settled and fully supported by many agencies. I would recommend Housing First to others looking for support as my worker has supported me to develop at my own pace, helping me use my strengths and helping me with my weaknesses.

"I have had choice and understanding throughout and always feel I can be open and honest. Generally, I’ve noticed now that I feel calmer and more relaxed, but I’m looking forward to attending counselling to work on my mental health and wellbeing with their continued support.”

During lockdown last year, we welcomed Nicola as our new Housing First Team Leader, who said: “One of the best successes for me is hearing the positive feedback from other services, people we work with and other teams about the Housing First Project Workers and see all the successes of the team.

“I feel proud that each member of the team is committed to supporting the people they work with and I think the teamwork and support they give each other is second to none.”

Sonia Denham, Head of Petrus, said: “We couldn’t be more proud of our service users, staff and partners. Their achievements over the past two years have been phenomenal and this is credit to the determination of service users engaging with the pilot and the dedication of support workers and partner agencies in forming wraparound support tailored to each individual, in a way we’ve not practised traditionally in services.

“The Housing First approach aligns with our belief that everyone should have access to safe places where they can flourish, that vulnerable people should have somewhere to call their home as they work to rebuild their lives.

"We’ve been able to witness first-hand the benefits of this approach and how it can support making our vision of ending homelessness a reality.

“Our staff work with such care and determination to ensure everyone has a home. Through building trust, they have supported people to defy societal expectations, believe in themselves and achieve positive change.

“It’s been rewarding to witness the collective resilience as our team and partnering organisations across the pilot remained committed to helping people to move away from homelessness even in the face of the pandemic.

“We're excited to see what incredible outcomes people we support and our team will have over this next year, and the lasting impact that the pilot will have on our communities across Greater Manchester.”

One of the key aspects of the GM Housing First approach was to embed system change, challenge unfair processes and provide flexible, person-centred support to people on the program. We have worked with many partners and housing providers who have embraced this and worked with us to provide a positive housing outcome.

Some notable successes include COVID-19 safe and socially distant property viewings, contactless property sign-ups, ad hoc/last-minute appointments as opposed to set time slots which are often difficult for people to manage and even an understanding of and commitment to providing the essential items a person needs on their first night in a new home.

This isn’t just about having gas and electricity but also curtains, carpet and even a radio or TV. We couldn’t have achieved so much without the input and support from all our partners, housing associations, other support services and stakeholders.

Including Stepping Stones Projects, Rochdale Borough Council, Bury Council, Regenda Homes, Turning Point, Achieve Recovery Service, Great Places, Onward Homes, Bolton Specialist Nursing Team, Probation CRC, Probation NPS, the police and Salix Homes – just to name a few!

And to anyone who has been a part of our Housing First involvement so far: A massive thank you.

Here’s to another successful year ahead of working to end homelessness!

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