Lewis helps ensure his clients don't slip back into homelessness
posted: 30 June 2017
New service helps newly-housed
After staying in the night shelters for five weeks last winter, Jane moved into social housing. Jane has a severe learning disability, and our caseworkers convinced Wandsworth council they had a responsibility to help her off the streets.
But Jane's problems were far from over. Early analysis suggests that almost one in five of the people we help into housing will be back on the street within a year's time.
In order to help those that are in danger of slipping back into homelessness, Glass Door has created a new "tenancy support" role. Caseworker Lewis Gates now visits guests in their homes, so he can head off problems before they escalate.
"It's about going out to people and bringing the services they need to them," says 27-year-old Lewis.
Jane needed Lewis' support right off the bat. Faulty wiring in the room of her shared housing caused her to get electric shocks when she plugged in appliances. The other residents ganged up on her when electrical outages followed, and yet the landlord refused to recognise the problem.
Thirty-seven days after moving in, Jane walked out of the building, vowing she couldn't live there any longer.
Lewis showed up and helped put her meagre belongings into storage. Normally, someone who leaves their home is deemed "intentionally homeless", and the council can wash their hands of responsibility.
Lewis advocated on her behalf, and the council agreed to get her into another temporary accommodation. He's now working to move her into housing that will include a support worker living on-site.
"She needs to be in supported accommodation," Lewis says. A room in a house with built-in support can be vital for those who struggle with mental or physical health issues.
Jane is just one of the 25 individuals with whom Lewis works. Already, he's dealt with a range of issues, including:
- helping clients navigate the benefits system
- fighting to have a housing project fumigated for bedbugs
- accessing grants to help furnish a bare room
- accompanying clients to appointments
- opening bank accounts
- helping a hoarder arrange for his flat to be cleared out
- ensuring access to mental and physical health isn't denied
One of Lewis' clients is seven months pregnant, yet the local GP surgery refused to register her without proof of address. "It was completely ridiculous. She was living in temporary accommodation right around the corner," Lewis recalls.
Lewis went back in with her, relevant law in hand, and didn't leave until surgery staff recognised their responsibility to her.
"The job is never boring," Lewis says. While Lewis acknowledges the job can be more frustrating than rewarding at times, Lewis knows his clients appreciate his involvement.
After helping Jane move into her temporary accommodation, she sent him a text that read:
"Thanks for being there for me! You really care for the troubled, vulnerable homeless folk.... I don't take it for granted. I am glad you are on my side."
*note: Jane's name has been changed to protect her anonymity, but all other details are accurate.
To help bring tenancy support to someone like Jane and help make a long-term difference in the lives of vulnerable people, consider making a donation, or find out how you can get involved.