The most common reasons given by people being referred to us are family dispute and relationship breakdown. There may be underlying causes associated with this. There are, on average, 520 referrals refused every year mainly due to a lack of bed space. The majority of referrals are in the age range 18-25. Over the period 2008-2011, the average number of residents helped by the hostel was 70 per year. Given that so many of our clients are living chaotic lives, it is inevitable that some will either choose to move out before they are ready or be asked to leave. However, since day services started in 2004 our success rate with clients has steadily improved with "planned" move-on increasing from 46% in 2004 to 84% in 2011. (NB the above figures are for our hostel in Stevenage).
Housing Support Workers
Our trained, dedicated support workers actively engage with clients on entry and at regular support plan review meetings. They assess needs relating to housing, health and working towards employment. From ongoing assessment, they work together to develop an action plan which signposts relevant internal and external support and activities. Housing Support Workers also help address day-to-day issues, for example looking at budgeting and addiction problems. In addition they work with the client and their Outreach Worker to look for suitable move-on accommodation.
In-house support services
Key to the services available to hostel residents is a programme known as It's Your Move. This focuses on five areas of support.
- be healthy - healthy eating, dealing with alcohol and drugs, sexual health and accessing health care
- economic well being - budgeting, dealing with debt, paying bills, accessing safer credit and setting up bank accounts
- enjoy and achieve - identifying training needs including basic skills, writing CVs and preparing for interviews
- making a positive contribution - accessing voluntary placements, valuing diversity, service user involvement and getting the most out of support staff
- staying safe - housing options, dealing with tenancy issues, preventing accidents in the home and issues with neighbours.
Clients are able to access a range of activities relevant to achieving the above some of which are delivered in partnership with other organisations such as the local college. They include pre-tenancy training, art and craft sessions, counselling and leisure activities.
The improved facilities associated with the new hostel will enable us to provide more extensive in-house training and other support activities.
Cold weather provision
During adverse weather, typically from December to March, we make use of communal areas in the hostels to provide overnight accommodation for rough sleepers. In addition, they are offered general advice on issues relating to health and finding secure accommodation.
Outreach working (floating support)
This service was introduced in 2007 with a team which has been funded by a government initiative known as Supporting People (now Housing Related Support) in addition to grants from a number of charitable trusts. We currently employ two floating support workers who are there to maintain contact with ex-residents from the hostels who have moved into the local community. There is a team member based in each hostel so that clients can build relationships before they move on. The main focus of floating support is to prevent people feeling isolated and also help them deal with issues such as bills, budgeting and threats to their tenancy. A number of ex-residents from our Stevenage hostel have managed to avoid eviction as a result of this service. Resourcing of the team is likely to be extended to deal with increased demand from the new hostel in Stevenage and the hostel we now manage in Hitchin.
A recent development in outreach work is to offer help to vulnerable individuals at risk of eviction with a view of preventing homelessness. We will work with private landlords, local authorities and support agencies such as CAB.
In February 2009 Iain Wright who was, at the time, under Secretary of State at DCLG visited our project and met with residents and staff. He said
"not only do staff give people a place to stay but they proactively help them to get jobs. These people are getting real skills to go out and get real work. This place gives people hope."
In 2014, Richard Protheroe, Head of Business Strategy, Community and Customer Services at Stevenage Borough Council said
"SBC is proud of our close association with Stevenage Haven. The dedicated team of staff, volunteers and Trustees work tirelessly to improve the lives of single homeless people who, for very many reasons find themselves street homeless. The difference that the Haven makes to the lives of those they help and support is immense, as can been seen in the testimonies written by clients that are or have been resident in the Haven and are published on their website."
According to Debbie Wood, Head of Service for Health and Specialist Services at Herts Young Homeless (HYH)
"HYH has worked closely with Stevenage Haven for many years and sees it as one of our key partners in the battle to reduce homelessness in Hertfordshire. Our Health team has been able to work collaboratively with the staff team at the Haven to offer support to some very vulnerable service users. We have found the staff and volunteers to be professional as well as kind and helpful; they have provided the accommodation and care to service users at a time in their lives when they have most needed it. We greatly value our partnership working with them.”