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Posted on 23 September 2020

Supporting complex needs in complex times

This year has brought some big challenges at homelessness support service Gateway. From new faces and evolving roles, not to mention a global pandemic, there have been some big changes too.

Tackling the issue head-on.

The expansion of our outreach team earlier this year could not have been timelier. With the addition of a second homelessness navigator, the team’s capacity has effectively doubled amid growing demand.

The outreach team pro-actively engage some of the most vulnerable members of the community, reaching out to rough sleepers directly.

“We cover the large geographical area of Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale to support rough sleepers, long term-homeless and people at risk of becoming homeless.

We operate out of Gateway Burnley, working closely with the Housing Options Teams to identify vulnerable individuals, what support they require, sourcing temporary accommodation, linking in with other agencies and trying to achieve positive outcomes for them. This may be something as simple as providing a food parcel or a listening ear but more likely be to try and source some accommodation for them to prevent them sleeping rough.”

This can be a difficult task as Jason Thompson continues, “This client group invariably has complex needs such as alcohol/substance misuse, mental health and physical health needs. Some clients prove more difficult to engage with than others with entrenched behaviours and mistrust of professionals. So, we try to break down those barriers by getting to know each individual through listening and supporting where we can.

Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government’s call to ‘Get Everyone In’, the role of the navigators soon expanded in both scope and significance.

“During COVID 19, we have worked closely with Burnley Council Housing Options Team to support people in temporary accommodation during this period. Due to the chaotic lifestyles of clients, this has been a very challenging time. It is not a job we can do from home, so we have been on the ‘front line’ throughout this period, wearing PPE and carrying out home visits.

Alongside support worker Amanda Carter, we have signed people up for tenancies, set up benefits claims, registered with GPs to organise prescriptions, liaised with Social Services/Probation/Inspire where needed and looked at more permanent accommodation going forward.

We have moved several people on successfully to permanent accommodation, either at Gateway, into a Calico Homes property or into private rented. With our links to Burnley Together, we have sourced food parcels, furniture donations to sustain tenancies and found deposits to secure accommodation through the Navigator Fund.

This work continues and with the winter approaching more and more services, such as a Bed Every Night, who we work alongside, are coming online.”

Smooth Seas don’t make good sailors

Elsewhere, Gateway Burnley found a new Complex Needs Housing Support Co-ordinator in Vicky O’Sullivan. Like so many Calico staff, Vicky has had a uniquely challenging start, joining the Group around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have now been with the Gateway team for just over 4 months having joined mid pandemic. The team have been amazing in welcoming me to the role and supporting me in terms of getting to grips with all aspects of operational delivery. There is so much to take in and I’m still learning! Everybody is lovely, bringing a whole range of experience and skills, creating a great diverse team to work with.”

Luckily, Vicky’s vast experience in related sectors has certainly allowed her to hit the ground running at Gateway. “I have been able to bring over my existing skills and experience and put them to good use in this exciting role. Before joining Gateway, I spent approximately 12 years working across community projects for third sector organisations. Primarily, this involved supporting individuals with substance misuse, mental health, physical health, homelessness and offending behaviours.”

As the pandemic escalated and demand soared, there was a real pressure for Gateway Burnley’s services to remain available. As Vicky continues, “The team have been working hard to operate as ‘normal’ throughout the pandemic and ensure we continue to provide support for our residents, those in dispersed properties and our move on properties. We continue to achieve some fantastic outcomes for our customers even in these difficult times. It is a real testimony to how we operate as a team, continuously providing support not only to others but also to each other!

We are continually adapting to residents needs and look forward to bringing back our group activities and creative practice.”

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