The Salvation Army Lifehouse; more than just a home - 13/09/2018
The Salvation Army run two Lifehouses – accommodation and tailored support for people experiencing homelessness - in the city; one for men in the city centre, on Charter Row, and a recently opened women only centre, Lincoln Court in Wincobank to the north of the city.
I was a little apprehensive about visiting the men’s Lifehouse, for the simple reason that I’d occasionally seen rowdy groups of men, who I assumed were residents, on the steps outside when I had walked past. On the day I visited however, the Lifehouse was a sea of calm, with a few residents stood chatting, and others relaxing in the communal areas. The front of house team welcomed me before I met the service manager Andy to find out more about the work they do to address homelessness in the city.
Andy explained that the men’s Lifehouse has space for 55 clients, with 10 of those spaces being for people assessed as having high needs, although their experience is that many more clients could easily fall into that category. Clients who stay have a lack of independent living skills, often have substance misuse problems, mental health difficulties, or learning difficulties and many have experienced family or relationship breakdown resulting in homelessness.
The Salvation Army offers clients support usually for 6-9 months, but this can be extended to a year depending on needs, and clients are encouraged to get fully involved in their support plan, deciding what goals they would like to work towards with the support of their key worker. This could be around education, addressing their substance misuse or other health needs, all of which are supported via the Lifehouse. For the majority of clients, the main goal is securing their own accommodation, be that through the Council, or private tenancy which is often supported by Crisis.
The Lifehouse, as the name suggests, aims to be more than a place to stay – it aims to be a home for the clients who stay there, which means that the team address clients’ needs holistically. They link up to other services, such as a local GP to help with medical care in the on site medical room, and provide support around benefits, education, ICT and life skills along with spiritual health guidance from their chaplaincy service. The Lifehouse has plenty of space for clients to relax, watch TV or enjoy a game of pool, with an allotment to tend nearby, and organised trips out to the cinema and the Peak District along with a whole host of other activities.
The team are rightly proud of the work that they do, and the outcomes they support clients to achieve during their time at the Lifehouse. The Annual Report from 2016-17 shares their successes, such as helping people to improve their long term physical health, supporting clients to establish a regular income, supporting people back into work or education, and engaging people in support for substance misuse, with the ultimate being moving people into more permanent accommodation.
Clients talk in positive terms about the Lifehouse and the support they receive too. RO, aged 23 said, “I had problems with my family relationships and severe drugs and alcohol issues and was on the street for a time. Here, I have lots of support and they try to make life better and stop our usual cycle of what we’re doing”.
And an ex resident, Paul, said, “I have had fantastic support from the service from when I moved into the centre to coming back and volunteering after leaving”.
Alison Riggott, SheffGives