On World Mental Health Day (10 October) Birmingham Changing Futures Together is calling for those in the corridors of power to recognise the correlation between mental ill health and homelessness and act accordingly.
“Homelessness almost never has just one cause,” said Natalie Allen, Programme Director of Birmingham Changing Futures Together. “The causes are complex and interconnected, with mental health often being a major contributing factor.
“On World Mental Health Day, we want those with the ability to influence and direct policy to recognise the destructive impact mental ill health can have on the life of an individual and act to evolve service provision to better meet the needs of these people.
“To effect change, people need to be seen as a whole person with multiple needs. Addressing one in isolation – for example their depression, substance misuse, self harming behaviour or homelessness – rarely results in sustained change.
“At Birmingham Changing Futures Together, we are working collaboratively with other organisations in the city, including Birmingham Mind and Shelter, to develop a new, effective approach.”
One person who has benefited is Sally. With a history of an abusive childhood, multiple suicide attempts and violent and destructive relationships that left her in hospital Sally was addicted to alcohol and drugs. She sofa-surfed, slept at the bottom of a stairwell and lived rough on the streets. Perhaps her lowest moment was sitting alone in someone else’s flat on Christmas Day drinking cheap cider. But when later moved to a hostel she was still surrounded by fellow addicts living chaotic lives. The road to recovery was hard to find. Read Sally’s story here.
Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, Birmingham Changing Futures Together is a £10 million programme over eight years. Its purpose is to improves the effectiveness of service provision to people with multiple and complex needs who experience at least two of the following: homelessness, substance misuse, offending behaviour and mental ill health.
Birmingham Changing Futures Together does this by creating a ‘community of support’ comprising organisations in the sector, identifying and sharing best practice and establishing new approaches. At the heart of its approach is the No Wrong Door Network, which is a group of organisations working together to make sure service users can access a whole system of support through one referral. The Network is complemented by the Lead Worker Peer Mentor service. Dedicated Lead Workers, skilled in helping people navigate the support services available, work alongside Peer Mentors who have lived experience. They quickly build trust, bridging the gap between the service user and the services, increasing the likelihood of lasting change.