‘Emotional Wellbeing Project’ with People who are Homeless

Lorraine RichardsonLondon – Awarded £4,000

The ‘Emotional Wellbeing Project’ with people who are homeless provides basic advice to clients on preventative measures to assist them to stay well.  It is run by the Passage – the centre for homeless people.

Lorraine Richardson, the project leader, has described how this project has been providing basic advice to clients on preventative measures to assist them to stay psychologically well and enabling clients to recognise what is good mental health. It is providing detailed information on services available and how to access them and enabling a peer mentoring project for clients. Additionally, clients have learned new skills in how to produce a leaflet receiving IT training in publishing and design through The Passage’s Employment, Training and Education department. Groundswell (the UK’s biggest service user involvement organisation for homelessness) is working in partnership on peer advocacy training.

Lorraine explained: we started by developing a questionnaire with our clients and circulated it in the day centre for a month. The purpose of this was to get service users views on emotional wellbeing, and as rough sleepers, what they do on a daily basis to improve and maintain their emotional wellbeing.

We analysed the information collected on the questionnaire and held a focus group that was attended by 6 service users. We discussed the information that came out of the questionnaires giving services users the opportunity to decide what goes into the leaflet.

Out of this focus group we recruited 3 service users to work on the leaflet production and design. These 3 service users received IT training in publishing and design through our Employment, Training and Education department.
We are working in partnership with Groundswell (the UK’s biggest service user involvement organisation for homelessness) regarding peer advocacy training.

Links have been made with Westminster Psychological Wellbeing centre to run emotional wellbeing groups on a fortnightly basis, as well as using The Passage’s own resources i.e. nurses and mental health workers. There have been sessions with an introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and how this can effectively treat depression and anxiety. The timetable for further sessions is – Assertiveness, self esteem, nutrition/food, depression, anxiety. “This ‘talk time’ is proving to be very popular with our clients and is being very well attended, prompting a lot of interesting discussion. We are also incorporating Basic Counselling skills into our staff, volunteer and student training programmes to provide better quality talking services for our clients.” Over 70 clients have attended. (Within the timespan of the project).

This is very much a service user involvement project and service users have been involved from the beginning. We sought their views and opinions about to the questionnaire.  6 service users were involved in the focus group and 3 of this group are designing and producing the leaflet. We want the leaflet to be focused on rough sleepers’ emotional wellbeing so it is vital that we have their expert views.

One client has already been trained in peer advocacy, accompanying other clients to health appointments. A client who was accompanied to the dentist (his front teeth were missing) by our peer advocate quoted:

“I feel like a different person, if it wasn’t for Paul*(not real name), I’d still be sitting around feeling embarrassed about my teeth and not doing anything about it. I feel much more confident and now I can smile without being embarrassed and ashamed”

What achievements are you most proud of?

As our client group are so transient and difficult to engage, it has been great to see how popular the fortnightly emotional well-being groups are. We are receiving very positive feedback from our clients about this and there has been a lot of interesting discussions.

Who, do you think, has most benefited from your project?

Clients and staff have equally benefited. We learned a lot as staff about taking time out to talk to our clients on a daily basis. Incorporating basic counselling skills into our training programme will encourage more meaningful engagement.

Once the leaflet is complete, we are hoping that the majority of our clients will benefit from the information produced. We are aiming to reduce stigma around mental health via the leaflet and by training 6 clients to be peer advocates so that they can talk, encourage and accompany their peers to health appointments, including mental health.

To hear Lorraine talk about ‘The Passage – mental health’ have a look at the video below:

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