“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” – Ernest Hemingway
Society’s approach to homelessness has traditionally been, crassly put, “you got yourself in to homelessness, now you prove that you want back into society.”. This perspective has made it easy for society and us individually to ignore the homeless as humans and part of ourselves. It has also allowed us to ignore the responsibility that society and our communities bears in preventing this downward slope. The issues precipitating someone ending up on the street are far too many and complex to fully explore and treat in this summary, but lack of compassion, empathy and connection to people in our community form part of the foundation. So, in the old approach, a homeless person had to prove they could be trusted, i.e. to have cleaned up their act, in order to be given permanent housing. Now imagine living on the streets where your main objective is survival and in many cases to secure your next fix, as drug dependency is a big problem for the homeless, and not having dealt with the demons that got you onto the street in the first place, what are the chances you have to sort yourself out to get off the street?
Enter “Housing First”, which is the brainchild of Dr. Sam Tsemberis, where the script is flipped from “prove that we can trust you and we’ll help you” to “let us help you so that you can have the best chances of regaining you foot hold and building up trust in those that are trying to help you”. Josie Asdown works as a Housing First Specialist with Bench Outreach in the south east of London and joins us in this episode to share her experiences and how flipping the script on the old paradigm, and daring to just do what is right without any expectations has proven to be a formula for success along the way, not quite there yet, but on the way.
We also explore the concept as a backdrop against our human experience in parenting, business management, government and so forth. Unless you trust you will not be trusted.
About Bench Outreach:
Bench Outreach is a homelessness charity based in Deptford, in the London Borough of Lewisham. Bench has been around for 20 years this year and we have been providing a Housing First service for 8 years, making us one of the earliest Housing First programmes in the UK.
Our CEO wanted to pursue Housing First because it has been an extremely successful model used across the world, beginning in the US. The premise seems very straightforward: that housing should be a human right, and that no homeless person can address their trauma and challenges without a stable, safe home. We follow a set of specific Housing First principles to support clients who have found it difficult to stay out of homelessness. Our clients come from long backgrounds of trauma, disadvantage, and abuse. We work with them to help remove any barriers that may have prevented them from accessing support in the past, and to finally maintain a tenancy.