Keyworker Support – The Lifeline of our Homeless Services

Mark, Project Worker in Depaul’s Back Lane hostel, explains how he supports men who have been in long-term homelessness, some with complex needs.


What happens when someone new arrives at Back Lane?

When a Service User arrives here, we greet them. This means making them feel welcome and safe. We’ll sit down with a cup of tea. Take the weight of their feet, make them feel at home. Everyone who works in Depaul is currently being trained in Trauma Informed Care. It’s important because some of these guys might be carrying a lot of trauma with them. We create a safe environment. We build the trust early on and to help them to understand that as long as they are here in Back Lane – it’s their home. I will do an assessment of their needs based on the information I have and what they are comfortable giving us. This would be around their mental health issues, physical health issues and dietary requirements too. This helps us to plan healthcare and meals for them. The things that will help them feel better, sooner,
while we work on their long-term housing plan for them.

Then we will show them around the building, and their own room of course. You wouldn’t believe the reaction of some of the guys when they see their room. Some haven’t had a room of their own in years.

Some people arrive with nothing but a bag, and some come here with their life’s belongings with them. For some people, it’s the first time they fully realise they are homeless. But that’s the benefit of having own rooms, it’s more homely and warm. It’s not such a shock.

How do you help Service Users?

You don’t know the person early on, so much of is building trust. Because ultimately, you need to know everything, because you’re trying to save them. It’s important to understand their addiction issues or mental health struggles. Some might not tell you for a few days. It can take time, because there is a lot of stigma and shame. This is why being non-judgmental is so crucial in Depaul’s work.

Once we begin understanding what a person is struggling with, then I link them in with the right support. I will set them up with counselling services, and housing support. For a lot of the guys – they just wouldn’t be able to do the paperwork by themselves. And there’s a lot of groundwork in helping someone get a house. It can be difficult, it’s such a process.


What would Back Lane look like without KeyWorkers?

Without Keyworkers, Service Users won’t be able to move on to their own home. You’re their person. They don’t have access to the internet, no access to housing services. Some come in with serious health issues. So I work with medical professionals to be able to get them medical priority. I also speak with different local authorities to help them into their forever home.

Just one example. We recently helped one man here move into his own home. You wouldn’t believe the difference. He came to one of our Cold Weather Beds two years ago. He was chaotic in his drug use. But he had a place to stay, support to help his mental health and recovery from his addiction. Now he’s moving into a house this week with no addiction issues and his mental health has improved greatly – that’s amazing, that’s exactly why we’re here.

Without us we’d have a lot more men in the homeless system. We make all the calls and have the conversations. It’s not a 9-5 role and that’s why there will be Keyworkers here 7 days a week.


Why do you work here?

From my perspective – I could get a different job tomorrow… but ultimately, I love helping people, I get so much satisfaction from it. I can leave at the end of the day and say, I’ve had a hand in that person – with the right support, and encouragement – finally getting a place to call home. I love helping people.


To support the work of Mark and keyworkers in Depaul, please donate today.

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