- Date: 18/05/2023
Meet the team working on the 'gateway' of homelessness support in Stoke-on-Trent
This week we're celebrating Concrete's Gateway team, who play a vital role as the first point of contact for the city-wide Destination:Home partnership.
Destination:Home, commissioned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and led by our homelessness charity, Concrete, is a 24/7 service that delivers housing and support to people without a home. The partnership is made up of Concrete, North Staffs Mind, Adullam Homes, Changes: Health and Wellbeing and WALK Ministries.
Based at Concrete’s head office in Stoke, the partnership’s Gateway team are just that – a gateway. If someone has lost their home and calls for help, the Gateway team are the first voices that they hear. The team is made up of coordinators from each housing service within the partnership, who each use their specialisms to secure the right home for each person.
Members of the team have opened up about their roles and shared how the Destination:Home partnership is working to end homelessness across the city.
“Since Christmas there seems to have been a huge increase in referrals,” explained Gateway Coordinator Marcus, who has been part of the team since November 2020. He added that the partnership receives around 10 to 12 referrals a day on average.
“There can be challenges when it comes to sourcing the right accommodation for customers, which leads to an increase in demand. That’s why it’s a huge benefit to be involved in a partnership like Destination:Home. We have great relationships across the city and use these every day to secure homes for people in need.”
The reasons for homelessness are extensive, but there’s certain circumstances that the team see again and again.
Marcus explained: “Relationship breakdowns are a huge reason for homelessness, which is perhaps something a lot of people don’t realise. That can be any relationship, not just romantic ones.
“We recently heard from a young person who was from a very well-off family. He’d wear designer clothes and didn’t have to worry about money at all. However, he was smoking cannabis. His parents had a zero-tolerance policy on that. He was at risk of losing his home because of it, despite how wealthy his family was.
“Sometimes we hear from the same people repeatedly. Homelessness can often come with multiple disadvantages, needs and vulnerabilities. It may be that their accommodation didn't work out and that we need to find a different, more creative approach, that fits that individual.”
Referrals can be made by customers themselves, or on their behalf by agencies and organisations from across the local area. This includes local authorities, rough sleeper teams, probation service, prison, and hospital discharge. The Gateway team must get as much information as possible to make sure the person in need is placed in the right home for them.
Marcus said: “Essentially we want to know their life story, but we appreciate that this can be challenging for someone to open up about. However, the more we get to know someone, the better we can advise them. Any vulnerabilities that someone has will impact on where they are placed. We want them to be somewhere that is right for them, where they feel safe and secure.”
Despite its challenges, working in the Gateway team is incredibly rewarding, too. By housing people without a home, the team are changing lives every single day.
“The best part for me is when people are so grateful that we’re able to offer them a home,” said Gateway Coordinator Chloe.
“We recently offered a bedsit to a lady who had been sleeping in her car for a month. She broke down crying when she arrived because it had just completely changed her life.
"We’re not in this job for the thanks, we don’t do it for that. We do it because we care and we want to help people. However when people get emotional and you can tell they’re really grateful, it’s lovely.”
Marcus added that in the homelessness sector, it's sometimes the small things that are the most rewarding.
He explained: “You really notice and recognise the small changes in people. There was a customer working with one of Concrete’s partners who didn’t shower at all. But then in January, he showered twice. To me and you, that’s nothing. But to him it was absolutely huge. It’s all dependent on the person.”
Homelessness comes with a huge stigma in today’s society, something which the whole Concrete team are keen to see change as soon as possible.
Chloe said: “It’s never a choice, people can fall on hard times. I think we all need to be a bit kinder to people who have been through difficult situations.
“Our roles are all about giving people a second chance – I feel grateful that we’re able to do that.”
Operations Manager Rachael currently oversees the Gateway. She said the best thing about the service is being able to ‘give customers a choice.’
She added: “The Destination:Home partnership model works really well because we can provide individuals with a variety of support and housing specialisms from each partner.
“There’s also a range of opportunities to move on and progress when the customer is ready. There’s support to learn tenancy skills and access other services, such as mental health or addiction support. There’s also the chance to work with staff and peer mentors who have lived experience of what they are going through.
“On top of this, we also work as a multi-agency team with the partnership and other external stakeholders and the city council. This means that we can give customers with more complex needs, perhaps those who are more entrenched in the homelessness cycle, the opportunity to access accommodation and overcome some of the barriers to support that they might face.”
Are you at risk of losing your home, or worried about someone else? Get in touch with the Gateway team by calling 0330 094 5558 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org