Guest Blog from Matt Pettitt, Team Manager in HARP’s Supported Housing Team
My name is Matt Pettitt, and I’m a Team Manager in HARP’s Supported Housing Team. I’ve worked for HARP for nearly 11 years, and in that time I’ve seen the lives of many local people turned around with support from the charity.
At HARP, our mission is to help local people overcome homelessness for good. On average we help around 1,000 local people every year to overcome or avoid homelessness.
In addition to providing the sort of services you might expect of a homelessness charity, like essential short-term emergency shelter, food, clothing and washing facilities, we also work to identify the root causes of homelessness, creating tailored support for each person’s circumstances.
We achieve success by providing structure, purpose and training opportunities, and by providing longer-term Supported Housing, empowering people to take steps to leave homelessness behind and ultimately live independently in the community.
Southchurch Supported Housing Project
In June 2019, my team opened a new five bed Supported Housing project in the Southchurch area for clients with low support needs. Low support needs residents are typically people for whom homelessness is their main issue.
For example, they could be nearing the end of their stay with HARP having addressed other issues, and could be moving to a low support needs house as a final stepping stone to independence. Or, they could be newly homeless after an eviction or relationship breakdown, but otherwise have all the skills necessary to maintain a tenancy.
Our lower needs accommodations are typically visited by our floating support staff a couple of times a week, and are visited nightly by our roving security guard team.
When we open a new property, we understand that our new neighbours will have concerns about our operations, the clients who may be housed near to them, security, and the overall standard of the neighbourhood.
One of our key objectives as an organisation is to be good neighbours. Our properties are managed by a dedicated team of staff and security personnel, and we take community cohesion very seriously. We always consult with local residents groups where possible, and aim to have meaningful and productive ongoing dialogue with our neighbours.
As far as is possible, we try to maintain anonymity for our residents. Aside from our Bradbury Day Centre in York Road, we don’t publicise the addresses of our residential properties, nor do we place HARP logos on the external walls. We believe this is only fair for the people who live with us, to protect them whilst they make the changes needed towards independence.
Despite not being able to reveal the exact address of our Southchurch project in this article, I can say that a number of our neighbours are aware of our presence in the neighbourhood, firstly through our pre-opening consultation process, and then through our participation in local projects, meetings and initiatives.
There were a number of understandable concerns and comments from our new neighbours prior to opening. No Supported Housing project is perfect, but I am pleased to say that the small and infrequent issues which have occurred at our Southchurch property have been dealt with quickly, effectively, and to the satisfaction of local residents.
Impact of the Project
At HARP, success to us is supporting our clients to live independently, or move on to more suitable Supported Housing in the community. This is our reason for existing as a charity, and although we can’t claim to have 100% success rate across the board, the Southchurch based project has been a great success story in this regard.
In the two years since opening the project, we have had six positive move-ons out of a total of seven people who have left the property, which myself and the team are absolutely delighted by.
This is made up of three people moving on to independent living, one moving in with family, one person moving in to more suitable Supported Accommodation with mental health support, and one moving to University accommodation!
One of the residents in our Southchurch Supported Housing project became homeless due to a relationship breakdown. As part of our assessment process, it was deemed that he had no issues with drink or substances, and was a keen gardener and woodworker in his spare time.
This resident became involved in HARP’s Meaningful Activities program, which aims to give clients opportunities to learn new skills and gain self-esteem and confidence. He particularly enjoyed getting stuck in to the gardening group, where we work closely with Southend Borough Council to maintain and improve local green spaces.
During his stay with HARP, we supported him to maintain contact with his ex-partner and his children, and worked towards helping him to secure his own accommodation so that he could have his kids over to stay at weekends.
During his stay with us, this client built strong relationships with neighbours, often helping them with their own gardens and small maintenance tasks.
In July 2021, sadly his family suffered a bereavement, and so he left HARP to move in with his mother, to support her. Even though he has now left the neighbourhood, he made such a great impression on our neighbours that he was invited, along with his children, to attend a BBQ at a neighbour’s house!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I hope that I have helped to shed some light on how we work at HARP, the impact that our work can have on local people who find themselves in tough times, and the importance of community support and mutual respect between local residents, our clients, and HARP as an organisation. We hope to see many more positive outcomes for future residents of the successful Southchurch Supported Housing project.
This article first appeared in the Autumn 2021 Edition of The Wire Southchurch Residents Newsletter.