The Julian House outreach team receive and respond to reports of rough sleepers in Exeter.
On a ledge, under a motorway, isn’t the location that springs to mind when you think of homelessness. However it had been brought to the team’s attention that this area was being used by a couple regularly as a place to sleep. To say the spot was difficult to access is an understatement. A bank led up to a concrete ledge which the couple had been sleeping on. This was not a healthy environment for anyone to live in. We had to do something.
We continued to meet with them in the same spot regularly for about four weeks. Each time I brought a hot drink and a smile, and they slowly began to warm to our team, allowing us to gain their trust incrementally. The major turning point was when I was able to take them to the council offices to see what could be offering in terms of housing and support. This meeting went really well – the couple came away having secured temporary accommodation.
As outreach workers we often find ourselves in challenging situations. When we made our way onto the ledge it struggled to comprehend how the couple had been able to function here. They had no phones, no contact with other agencies and no support. I realised how secluded the spot was and that our clients had chosen it for this very reason.
Unforeseen circumstances had led to the woman losing her tenancy and she felt isolated from her friends and family. Her partner struggled with his mental health -previously finding himself in trouble with the police but not willing to see a doctor. They were suspicious of any services we could offer and had a sceptical approach during our first meeting. It transpired that location had been their bed for six months and would often spend most of their daytime there too. It was clear the ledge had become an invisible barrier. We were going to struggle to talk and gain their trust. A compromise was made and the couple agreed to meet us at the motorway services which were nearby.
We continued to meet with them regularly for about four weeks. Each time I brought a hot drink and a smile and they slowly began to warm to our team -allowing us to gain their trust. The major turning point was when I was able to take them to the council offices to see what could be offering in terms of housing and support. This meeting went really well. The couple came away, having secured temporary accommodation. It wasn’t long before the couple decided to begin the search for their own, more permanent accommodation. The outreach team were on hand to help and the couple successfully navigated the council housing services, finding a flat they could call their own.
Having a settled home allowed the woman to reconnect with the family she had once felt isolated from and begin to rebuild those precious connections. I was absolutely thrilled when she told me that she was soon to be a grandmother, as this was something she would never have imagined six months ago.
The hard work that went into helping this couple really pays off when they pop in to say hello to us at the office. The difference we can see in them, physically and emotionally, is incredible. They are still flourishing together in their flat a fantastic outcome.