Homes at the heart of settled futures advert

Homes at the Heart of Settled Futures

Gloucester City Homes (GCH) is proud to support the National Housing Federation’s new initiative “Homes at the Heart”. The campaign aims to bring social housing providers together and create “once-in-a-generation investment in social housing” to make sure that everyone has a safe, secure and comfortable place to call home.

One of the main priorities of the Homes at the Heart Campaign is to guarantee that there is “No return to Rough Sleeping” and through this ensuring “Settled Futures” for those most in need. This is a cause close to GCH’s heart and to ensure this we provide the following services to help reduce homelessness across Gloucester:

  • We have 62 unit of homeless accommodation across three hostels and dispersed properties across the city.
  • In August we will open brand new homeless accommodation on Southgate Street, which will offer two bed units for families, which can be inter-connected to create accommodation for larger families, something which Gloucester currently lacks.
  • We have recently added two more one-bedroom properties to our dispersed homeless offer, which allows residents from our three homeless hostels to take their next step.
  • We are looking at adding a further 3 more properties to our dispersed accommodation.
  • We are actively looking at additional property options and the development of new build accommodation.

We work closely with Gloucester City Council, as well as local Gloucester MP Richard Graham, to ensure that the services we provide are providing expert care for those who need it as well as aiming to give those who have previously been homeless a second chance at life – supporting them to eventually sustain their own tenancy in their own home.

Mr Smith’s Story

This has been proven by the following real-life story of one of our customers:

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual

Mr Smith arrived at Priory Place, temporary homeless accommodation, in 2013 after being discharged from prison for committing a serious offence. He had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was struggling to accept this diagnosis and come to terms with his mental fragility.

Mr Smith was a regular cannabis user and told us he used this drug to manage his mental health and the distressing voices he heard but did not like discussing his mental wellbeing with others. He was passionate about music and would write his own lyrics and this was a way of him expressing his feelings safely. Throughout his childhood he was subject to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) meaning his family could no longer accommodate him and his behaviour although he continued to remain close to some of them. He accepted that he needed his own accommodation but was not happy living in shared facilities.  He was paranoid about the CCTV and security that we had on site and compared the house rules and licence agreement was “Like being back in prison”.

Whilst we provided considerable support to Mr Smith, we unfortunately had to give various warnings about playing loud music and being verbally abusive to security staff and other people living on site, who were in a similar situation to him.  He fell behind with his service charge payments and due to receiving a final warning about his behaviour he was issued with a Notice to Quit in January 2014.  At this time, he recalled back to prison. Mr Smith was never abusive to support staff at GCH and was always respectful. He did have outbursts but this was usually out of frustration and would always calm down and apologise afterwards.  

In 2018 Mr Smith was referred back to our homeless service and we agreed to accept him back into Priory Place.  When he met with staff from GCH the change in him was apparent, as he was determined to succeed and was determined to reach his goal of having his own tenancy.   He was distressed by the thought of living under house rules again had a feeling of dread but he accepted it as a process to enable him to one day have his own property.

There continued to be a few complaints about loud music and he had meltdowns, but this was usually when his mental wellbeing was not managed.   As time went by Mr Smith began to settle into a routine and proved that given the opportunity, he could manage his own tenancy. However, due to his offending history and knowledge of him from our Anti-Social Behaviour Team he did not meet the criteria of GCH’s lettings policy.

It was at this stage that GCH’s Supported Housing Manager arranged a meeting between our Tenancy Services Team and Homeless Team to see how we could overcome the hurdles and move Mr Smith into one of our dispersed homeless units. It was agreed to provide him with an opportunity and a Contractual Agreement alongside an Acceptable Behaviour Contract which enabled him to move into a 1 bed flat of his own. 

Mr Smith has sustained his tenancy and over the last two years. There have been periods of calm with no housing management issues and periods when concerns have been raised  including complaints from neighbours regarding loud music, smoking cannabis, shouting and visitors. However rather than responding with a Notice to Quit the Homeless Team Leader, with support from local agencies, have got alongside Mr Smith, regularly met with him to discuss any concerns raised and clarified what was expected from him to remain living in the accommodation. Rapport and trust were slowly built up with Mr Smith and they were able to challenge in a positive way any negative behaviours he presented.  Mr Smith also went on to be the first person to complete a “Managing your own Tenancy” with AcTion Glos and their payment by result service. 

Mr Smith started to open about his mental wellbeing and how difficult and upsetting the voices were and how he wanted to get help. He was supported to engage with Mental Health Services for the first time in years and AcTion Glos attended a new Mental Health Assessment with him so that his wellbeing could be reviewed together with his medication. This was a big step forward for him and he learnt to not be afraid to ask for help when needed.

Mr Smith continued to smoke cannabis and this was still a sticking point for having a full tenancy so again the subject was approached and he agreed to consider engaging in services as he realised it was impacting on his mental wellbeing and also his finances.  This continues to be work in progress and he did stop smoking cannabis for 1 week, which was a first for him.  He still requires help to engage with services, but it is much easier to be up front and have a direct conversation with him.

He also had former arrears from his first stay at Priory Place but has now successfully paid off and is now in credit on his current account and is saving up for his months rent in advance for a starter tenancy.

Mr Smith has managed to overhaul his life, he is a very likeable young man who is focused on achieving his goals in life; particularly in relation to not going back to prison and has succeeded with this. The Homeless Team have not received any further complaints from his community since April 2019 and he has made his flat his home. He has relapsed on occasions, but staff and other agencies can now spot the signs early to get him the help he needs. His success story shows the positive impact that the right accommodation and adequate support can bring.