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