Friday, 24 October 2014

How do we manage our expectations when working with homeless clients?

One of my colleagues asks this every so often and it gets me thinking and keeps me in check.
It could be in relation to someone you have just met or one of your 'famous faces ' that had acted unacceptably or sabotaged their opportunities. How does this make you feel? I feel cross at them and at myself.
But when someone has been doing so well or been given a great opportunity and lost it, should we look more deeply into the situation. It often feels like we put a lot of pressure on our clients to succeed. But is that the reason why they do not? Is the pressure too much to live up to? What if they do succeed, but then loose it all again and are back to square one? How would any of us cope in that situation?

For some of our clients they may be in a cycle of homelessness. They live on the streets, hostels and then prison/hospital, then back on the streets. Has their normally shifted to something we would recognise as surviving. All three environments are hard to live in, they all result in various liberties being taken away, from a safe place to sleep, who you sleep with or the choice of when to sleep, to name a few.

I feel the only way I can restore my motivation is to look at any situation, even a negative one and see where we can learn. Maybe adding extra or a different type of support. For those that seem to be revolving through various services and institutions, I can only aim to try to be available and consistent. By letting them know that I have not given up, regardless of the result of their recent activities and that I will continue to work with them. However, I always look for them to recognise their behaviour and accept their mistakes. Once they have 'owned' it, we can move forward with a new plan to address whatever their priorities may be, housing, health care, finances, etc.

The hardest part is when they do not acknowledge their own hand in recent actives and continue to blame others or may me for the situation they now find themselves in. I will always make a point of apologising or owning up to any mistakes on my behalf and so expect them to do the same and aim to instil mutual respect.

Sometimes, it's all about having a little time to cool off. I would always try to rebuild a broken relationship and would give it time and be persistent. I always try to remember that some of our guys have been living like this for years, maybe all their life if they have been in the care system as well. They are used to workers coming and going, good one s and bad ones.

How do I manage my expectations? Always optimistically but, while being realistic at the same time.
"The sun is always shinning above the clouds" Paul F Davis

Friday, 14 March 2014

Only Human ,Dealing with Fact not Fiction

Remember that feeling when you watch TV or read a great book and even when it has ended those feelings it produced, stay with you? Be it happy, sad, spooked or angry, we always know its just fiction.
But what feelings do we take home at the end of the day, happiness, sadness, fear, or anger? The difference is that these feeling can stay with us, can multiply in strength or mutate into something else. The negative feelings and responses can have real consequences if not dealt with.
We all have those days, regardless of our work, when we feel we should have, could have or would have done things differently in a certain situation. The reality is that we are only human and can only do so much. Its important to remember our job, our role and our professional boundaries. They are important to the safety of ourselves and others and have been put in place for a reason.
If we let these things slide, consequences can be disastrous. The impact on our lives or others is rarely positive.
There are always times when we meet people, who have more impact on us than others, maybe they are more vulnerable, more troubled, or more dangerous and volatile. We all experience situations which make our hearts leap, make us fearful or fill us with regret.
So, how do we keep ourselves on track? What works for you?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The death of a client

There are times when no matter how hard we work to ensure our clients receive a supportive and comprehensive services, it results in failure. 

Either the client is not ready for the changes, feels too much pressure or fear to succeed, can not comprehend any other life, or maybe we have been too keen and not listened to what they  really want. However, sometimes our clients die. When this happens unexpectedly, we find it can effect us in a variety of ways.

More recently I have known at least 6 of my team's clients to pass away. Some of them have been physically unwell, while most have died unexpectedly and sometimes in suspicious circumstances.

How do we cope with this? 

To be honest, there have been times when I have felt very little and these are the times I worry about myself and what I may have become as a person. Then I realise that humans interact with people differently. Where I may have little emotion for one person's death, I may become very emotional about another person's. It may depend on how involved in their care we have been, a general fondness for someone or some other kind of connection. The sadness we feel may be a result of how and where they died, maybe at their own hand, their chaotic lifestyle, their age or for some other reason.

If you have been working closely with someone for a period of time, it can be hard not to blame yourself in having some kind of hand in the death. Maybe you blame yourself for not focusing more attention on them and more one to one support, or maybe you accessed the accommodation where they later died.
I have come to learn that in this profession, we can only do so much and should never think we can save everyone we come in contact with. We usually have limited resources and many of us work with chaotic clients. There can be an ongoing battle between being  professional and being a caring person and I would hope that team members support each other in these circumstances and do not judge too hastily their colleagues reaction to a clients death.

The purpose of The Spike is to support each other, so please let us know how have you coped, or not coped with a clients death? What advice do you have for others in this situation?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Social Class and Homelessness.

A recent report suggests that the middle class are the emerging group of homeless.
But at what point do we record these distinctions? Is alcoholism and drug addiction class distinctive or do the middle classes just hide it well? Are we to assume that middle class people all have savings, mortgages or family to help them out in their time of need, I know plenty of people who would consider themselves middle class but have none of these. If we are to assume a definition of middle class then is it someone with a good education, in a professional job and a home owner? 
Do we need to put aside these useless definitions and make people realise that homelessness can happen to anyone, as we don't know what the future holds and how we will cope with it. Can any one of us ever say we will never be homeless? Maybe, we need to do more to open peoples eyes and make them realise that mental health, physical health, addictions, bereavement, self harm, domestic violence, abuse, unemployment are common factors that can contribute to someone being homeless regardless of their class.