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Gemma had been homeless for 2-3 years. Stakeholders described her as “hidden homeless”, sofa surfing and hidden rough sleeping.

Gemma was not receiving any support and “refused to engage with services” which stakeholders linked to a lack of trust and an assumption she would be placed in a hostel or supported accommodation with a worker she did not know or trust. Thus, Gemma came onto the Housing First case load “by accident”, through a friend she was staying with who was a Housing First customer. The friend’s worker, over the course of about 9 months, worked hard to develop a relationship with Gemma and gain her trust.

Gemma officially joined Housing First in April 2019. She started her own tenancy 20 months later in December 2020. The service acknowledge that it took a long time to find a flat for her, explaining that she had requested a very specific location. In the meantime, she was lodging with the friend who was also a Housing First customer.

In terms of what worked well for Gemma, stakeholders highlight that Housing First “allowed her to go at her own pace”. Entering the programme via her friend was convenient and meant that she could build up trust with their specific worker over a long period of time.

From Gemma and stakeholder interviews, it was evident that she needed the support of Housing First, there was a “massive” change in Gemma’s engagement with other services: “Started addressing her substance misuse, started recognising her physical/mental health and engaging with her GP”. This accompanied an improvement in her physical and mental health, and a reduction in her alcohol and drug use. She also went on a methadone script and was given other medications that she found beneficial, through the GP. “I think she needed that little bit of virtual hand holding. I think she felt the doctors didn’t believe her. So having someone there to advocate for her helped.”

Gemma is very positive about the first worker she had but she feels the support in the past 12 months has not been the same. She comments on multiple changes in her workers (“8 in the past year”) and she has found this very hard: “Disappointed about being passed about…I did have a brilliant worker and I opened up to her”.

Furthermore, in terms of Gemma’s own flat, she was not entirely satisfied with the quality of the property or its location. The location was further from her friend and son, and where she needed to be for her methadone script. It was also above a pub. She explained that it was more expensive for her than the previous arrangement and so she was “down on her money”. At the time of interview, she had not paid her rent for two weeks and had only stayed at the property a handful of times; she had been staying with a friend instead.

In terms of what could help improve things for Gemma in the future, her Service Co-ordinator felt it could be beneficial for her to get involved with one of the peer mentors “and explore what could be achieved with them”.

For more information on Brighter Futures Housing First.

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