‘Dan’ is a man in his 40’s, who came to Weymouth as a rough sleeper in early 2018. He has no local connection but had spent many years moving from town to town, with his only known period in accommodation a brief spell in a hostel in Bournemouth 2012. Before coming to Weymouth he had been on the streets in Southampton. Dan said he had significant health problems but was not very specific about these or his housing history. He would engage in polite conversation but had no trust in services and would not accept offers of being linked in to the Homeless health team nurse for support around his physical needs. Although Dan did not present as under the influence of substances, his lifestyle, associates and street use, including persistent begging, suggested that he was likely to be using street drugs.
When SWEP was called in January this year, we offered Dan a place on the Bus, but he refused, saying he was fine on the street and used to cold weather. We were therefore slightly surprised when he turned up to Safe Sleep in its first week at St John’s. Although there were many of Dan’s daytime associates at the Safe Sleep, he kept himself politely aloof. It gave us the opportunity to initiate conversations that had not previously been possible. For example, one evening Dan was sat looking through a shelf of Christian books in the church, so I asked him whether he had any religious belief. This led to a deeper conversation about aspects of Dan’s childhood and his belief system, that promoted greater trust and understanding for both Dan and the worker. Shortly after he asked if we could help him make a Universal Credit claim, so we supported him to make the online application and went with him to the initial interview at the Jobcentre.
Through these conversations we also discovered that Dan’s physical health problems, including Grave’s disease, arthritis and angina, leave him with chronic pain. He disliked the medication he had been historically prescribed, and his opiate use was likely highly connected to this. He attended Reach and got a methadone script, something that he had also been previously avoiding. We liaised with Miriam, to ensure it was alright to overlook the local connection, given his health needs and the length of time in the area, and referred Dan to Melcombe House. After a few weeks Dan stopped using Safe Sleep, as he was starting to find the community overwhelming, but the weeks he did use it were sufficient to kick start a change, which we were then able to follow up on the street. When a bed did come up, we had to act quickly or lose it, so we went out repeatedly throughout the day until finally managing to get hold of Dan last thing on Friday afternoon and get him successfully booked in.