In this case study you'll read about the story of CS. He's 60 years old and has been a long-standing client of Homeless Action in Barnet, having been rough sleeping in the area for around 30 years.

CS had difficulties in accessing help as he had tattoos on his face and neck. When he began coming to HAB early on, we were still a soup kitchen. As the services we were able to offer expanded, he continued to come to the day centre, eating hot food, receiving clean clothes, talking a shower, seeing the GP and Chiropodist etc. We went on to help raise funds so that he could get his tattoos removed and begin taking steps towards real change in his life.

We can't force change

Each month, we would have a conversation with CS about housing and hed always decline, saying he wasnt ready. Having experienced entrenched homelessness, he found some things deeply challenging — for instance he was very nervous about opening and dealing with letters and needed constant support from us — and so was very reluctant to accept permanent housing and the responsibilities that involves. Instead, he preferred the freedom of the outdoors and the lack of constraints that come with it. So, it's understandable that when his support worker found him accommodation in Watford, his fears about this change took over and he left the property the day he was supposed to move in. 

Substance abuse can be — but is by no means always — a factor in the lives of the homeless and vulnerably housed, and CS had struggled with cannabis and alcohol. But, like a lot of personal change, it can only come when we're ready. CS made the decision that he no longer wanted to be dependent on substances, and has been teetotal for two years.  

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Patience is a key trait in our work

Staff remained steadfast in letting him go at his own pace, for which CS said he was “very appreciative”. Fortunately, due to the constant efforts and encouragement from staff — especially his key worker — as well as family support, CS made the decision to enter permanent housing with the help of Nacro, a social justice charity that works closely with HAB. 

CSs experience around moving into his own accommodation for the first time has been wholly positive. He is still being supported by his HAB and Nacro support worker, meeting once a month, but is now much more comfortable in taking responsibility for himself such as arranging for a Freedom Pass, getting a TV Licence and yes, opening and reading his own letters. 

He is more talkative these days, and likes speaking with other clients in the centre about how much happier he is now that he has somewhere permanent to stay. 

A week after moving into his place, he went and took down his tent from the site he had had for over 20 years and gave it to another client. 

CS is continually grateful for the help he had and continues to receive from HAB, saying that its the best thing that ever happened” to him and that all the staff have been wonderful, supportive and great” not only to him, but to everyone that comes through the door.