Three Dudley Council workers are leading a pioneering project to tackle rough sleeping in Dudley borough.
“It’s safe to say that no two days are the same” says Annabel Fuidge, on her new role as an intensive housing support officer at Dudley Council. “But I love my job and feel really passionate about working with the most vulnerable in society.”
Annabel has worked for the authority’s housing support service for three years but recently took up a new role working within a newly created Housing First team.
Joining Annabel in the team are Darrel and Diane who have also worked for the authority for a number of years.
Together they are driving Dudley Council’s commitment to a West Midlands wide housing pilot project, which launched last year, and will pioneer the way support is given to people who are living on the streets or at risk of becoming homeless and have multiple and complex needs.
The project’s ethos is to find someone a home first and foremost and then look at what support can be offered to help maintain a tenancy and achieve other ambitions at their own pace.
It hopes to help people who have run out of options and have a history of substance misuse, childhood traumas, mental health issues or who have been in and out of the system for years and have been unable to be helped in other ways.
Dudley’s approach has been to recruit three dedicated support workers who will be on the ground delivering the project to those who need it.
Annabel adds, “Housing First isn’t a quick fix and for many of the vulnerable residents we work with, it can be a real leap of faith for them to even trust us and understand that we are here to help. We have to persist and be flexible to meet their needs if we stand any chance of making the situation a success."
Annabel, Darrel and Diane have already helped to find accommodation for nine people. This involves working closely with the council’s housing team to find a suitable home, helping the individual get all the essentials they need to set up their home and then support them to engage with services that can help them to address their needs and focus on the future.
On her new role, Diane comments: “It’s hard to describe what an average week can be like for us. One minute we can be responding to a new report of someone sleeping rough, the next we can be taking someone to a medical appointment or helping someone budget their finances.
“Unfortunately we have come across cases where people don’t want to be helped but the best bit about the job for me is building relationships with customers, which are based on trust.”
As part of their work, the team creates support plans with each person to help them remember appointments, access services such as job centre assessments, help set up their bills or plan food for the week. They also organise workshops such as how to cook.
Darrel adds: “This is about giving people a chance to rebuild their lives and be part of a community once again. It doesn’t always run smoothly and we work really hard to help people on a road to recovery. The reason I wanted to do this job was to give hope when people need it most and help them find a way to live an ordinary life, which is often all people want.
“Over time our hope is that the individuals we’ve helped will develop new friendships in the community and rely less on us until eventually we’re able to take a complete step back.”
Councillor Laura Taylor, cabinet member for housing, communities and residents' welfare, said:
The number of cases of people on our streets is relatively low compared to some areas but for us, even one person sleeping rough is too many.
We’re really pleased to have secured funding and trial this project in our borough and we can see it’s already having a positive effect on the way we are able to help people.
Dudley Council was awarded funding last year from the West Midlands Combined Authority as part of Housing First and is working as part of a regional partnership for three years to tackle rough sleeping. The pilot is also running in Greater Manchester and Liverpool and will be evaluated across all three pilot areas.