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Copy of What is hidden homelessness 3

The impact of temporary accommodation on the wellbeing of people experiencing homelessness and how we can address it

  • 4 min read |
  • Posted by Justlife
  • On 16 June 2021

Living in temporary accommodation can be a lonely, isolating experience, especially for single homeless households. The people we work with are often placed in temporary accommodation alone, with no plan of action to address their needs, no safety net to prevent them from slipping into rough sleeping, and a very limited understanding of what their options are.

Once placed, it’s not unusual for people to experience a decline in their wellbeing. Some end up in an overcrowded B&B, surrounded by people they don’t know, with little to keep them occupied, and the possibility of eviction lingering over them - a chaotic environment that is not conducive to healthy wellbeing.

In our report, Hidden Homeless Exposed, 58% of our research group had mental health issues, and 42% had trauma related mental ill-health, many due to their experiences of homelessness and temporary accommodation.

Several people commented that the pandemic had little impact on them as they had been ‘self-isolating’ prior to COVID-19 anyway, giving us a glimpse of just how lonely life can be as someone whose experience of homelessness is hidden behind the closed doors of any type of temporary accommodation, especially a hostel, guesthouse or a B&B.

So, how do we, at Justlife, tackle loneliness and improve the wellbeing of people living in temporary accommodation? How can we alleviate some of the stresses people face in this environment?

Digital inclusion to meet their immediate needs

First, we make sure they are connected - to support, to loved ones, to their interests and to activities. Since most of these things are accessible online, digital inclusion has to be a priority for people affected by homelessness. They need a phone or better yet, a tablet device.

This would enable access to online GP appointments, online banking, Universal Credit applications, peer support groups, local activities, and contact with loved ones and their support worker. Devices also enable them to explore anything they’re interested in, helping them stay occupied while living in temporary accommodation.

Local activities to learn new skills

Learning new skills can help keep people’s minds active, build their confidence, and help them navigate day-to-day life with more ease.

Pre-pandemic, Justlife offered IT courses at our centre in Openshaw to introduce clients to digital services such as online banking and Manchester Move (where people who are homeless can bid on properties) and give them a space to familiarise themselves with computers or tablets.

We also provided gardening workshops, cooking classes, and advice sessions on how to budget. If a client had a particular interest, we’d try to connect them to local activities that would enable them to explore those interests further.

In Brighton, our Creative Studio offers people with experience of homelessness a space to explore art in a supportive environment. Artists can engage in a variety of creative workshops or run their own workshop to enhance their confidence and leadership skills.

Local activities not only build skills, they provide opportunities to meet new people, share their stories and have a laugh. Sometimes, human interaction can make the biggest difference to someone’s wellbeing and self esteem.

Befriending schemes to tackle loneliness

Many people face homelessness alone and, aside from their support workers, have no one to talk to about what they’re going through.

Befriending schemes that match someone experiencing homelessness with another person with shared interests or life experiences can be instrumental in improving wellbeing, giving people a source of comfort and something to look forward to each week.

Our Social Connection project does exactly that - we pair someone moving away from homelessness with a volunteer to spend time together each week and do a fun activity. The volunteer provides a listening ear to clients and supports them in overcoming any social barriers they have.

Having someone to turn to, who won’t judge you or hold anything you say against you, can be really affirming, helping them see that they are not alone, and that people do care.

What needs to change at a systemic level

These wellbeing activities are a starting point, but what we really need, at a structural level, is a recognition of the prevalence of isolation and loneliness in temporary accommodation in the Government’s strategy for tackling loneliness, and investment in better mental health support for the people living here.

Until we see better, targeted support for residents, temporary accommodation will continue to impact people’s wellbeing and complicate their path away from homelessness.

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