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Looking at Trauma Informed Care and Psychologically Informed Environments in Temporary Accommodation

  • 3 min read |
  • Posted by Louis Kirby
  • On 10 October 2023

Robin Johnson, the ‘father’ of Trauma Informed Care and Psychologically Informed Environments has published a new book, Unfinished Business. We’re very excited to see that he has devoted an entire chapter to investigating how these concepts apply to Temporary Accommodation (TA) and Temporary Accommodation Action Groups (TAAGs), reasoning that TA is as good a test as any of the versatility of these frameworks.

What is PIE and TIC?

Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and Trauma Informed Care (TIC) are closely linked and complementary approaches to working with people experiencing homelessness. They aim to provide an accessible framework for services to improve the psychological and emotional well-being of people they support. This is accomplished through their approach to the physical environment, support for staff, psychological awareness and continued learning and enquiry.

PIE in temporary accommodation

Early descriptions of PIE were focussed on ‘built environments’ in homeless services and encouraged a person-centred service and space design. A key limitation in applying this to TA is both the lack of residents’ voice in their experience, as well as the lack of control local authorities currently have on the environments they place people in. What Robin’s latest chapter on PIE in TA suggests, is that the PIE approach can be translated into the context of temporary accommodation and to consider specific issues in systems and pathways as built environments.

PIE through Temporary Accommodation Action Groups (TAAGs)

Rather than adapt and design physical environments, TAAGs look to analyse and adapt the TA system through the experiences of those within it. PIEs look closely to develop psychological awareness to underpin the needs of their user group and to develop a stance of learning and inquiry to tackle the problems they are faced with. This approach is at the core of any TAAG as it looks to bring the voice and experience of residents, support agencies, local authorities and landlords together and create an environment of enquiry, compassion and learning. Partnership working across local TA communities promotes psychological understanding within the environment of temporary accommodation. Although the TAAG has no control over the physical environment within the accommodation, the belief is that a psychologically informed systemic environment will trickle down into physical conditions of TA.

The APPG and PIE

Both models discussed in Robin’s book identify the need for a safe and predictable environment. Within TA however, from the first interaction with local authority housing, to staying in an often inappropriate hostel or B&B, the experience is marked by unpredictability from beginning to end. Many homeless households are without basic facilities and the number of households in temporary accommodation in England are at the highest level on record.

Across the wider TA network, key themes of PIE and TIC also run through the APPG’s call to regulate temporary accommodation under the new Social Housing Regulations Bill. As well as the regulation of basic facilities and provisions within TA, the APPG also calls for support for the stakeholders within TA provision. Training and support for housing officers would create a more psychologically informed environment within the earlier stages of the housing pathway, and trauma-informed, holistic support for homeless households would ensure they are safe throughout it.

Robin’s work in this new book outlines that by creating psychologically informed environments within TA networks and systems, we can work towards making TA as short, safe and healthy as possible.