“It’s that kind of relationship that really helps people change, and they know we care about them, not that we’re simply doing our job. Some of the social activities are helping people step outside their own limitations. Take them out , give them a great day, meet people, enjoy something , have an activity in common. I think the more of that you can do, then…..it’s a bright day in people’s lives”
It is “that kind of relationship” that makes Faith Hope Enterprise (FHE) a very special organisation that provides supported housing for the most marginalised in our society.
FHE was set up 25 years ago by Carl Taylor. Whilst the name implies an expression of Christian Faith it is not a religious organisation. The Hope is about the aspiration to transform people’s lives, and it seeks Enterprise in achieving those goals. Sadly, 18 months ago, Carl Taylor passed away and it falls to Kevin Gill and his wife, Mel, to run with the daily management of the organisation backed up by an experienced group of Trustees.
FHE manages 14 properties which are a combination of shared, and self-contained units. They have room for 27 people ( currently 5 women), and 25 of those are supported. The properties are leased off private landlords, unfurnished, and FHE then fully kits them out, including white goods and decorations. It gives them the opportunity to make sure that the atmosphere is as welcoming and, as homely, as their resources allow.
The 25 supported tenants all have significant needs. Each person will have one or many problems associated with drug addiction, alcohol abuse, mental health, learning disabilities, fractured childhoods, and some have offending histories. In many cases they will have been excluded from other housing projects and FHE is a point of last resort.
FHE does not judge the person’s past. A bad history is not an automatic disqualification. A commitment to work together on personal development, and a likely prospect of fitting in with other tenants in the shared house, are the key factors of acceptance. The support plan is an integral part of the tenancy agreement, and is instrumental in securing the enhanced Housing Benefit which is essential for the organisation to function financially.
Due to the background conditions of the tenants, their stay with FHE is not short term. 6 months is the minimum, but some have been with them for 10-12 years.
The most inspiring aspect of FHE is not the bricks and mortar – it is the relationship approach.
Kevin’s view is that the people are in this situation largely resulting from past troubled relationships, poor support structures, and broken families….and that the way out is to address this with committed relationships, positive support, and re-engagement with family.
“We’re helping the person. We’re trying to deal with the whole picture”
And whilst on Day 1 many new residents may be very difficult to deal with, Kevin is optimistic and hopeful
“I believe people can change – it can be a long journey for some”
“It’s the relationship that helps people change, and the friendship element of it. That idea that it’s not our 9-5 job – we would see that as a real personal commitment to people and, to walk through with them, whatever it takes. We do a whole load of things outside of Monday– Friday, 9-5. We had 3 residents with us on Christmas Day, and we’ve done that for years. Three’s probably the least we’ve had – we’ve had up to 20 sitting round our table, with our family.”
“There was a situation last year with someone with a mental health crisis contacted me on a Saturday and they were in a particularly difficult situation. My daughter was playing football down in Birmingham, so I came and picked them up, took them with me, watched her play football, took them to lunch….and they just really valued and appreciated that opportunity to get out of the 4 walls, and it gave them something else to focus on.”
Kevin’s arranged QUAD biking, paint-balling, Derby County stadium tours, and occasional group meals as “house meetings”, to reinforce the mutual support structure and the sense of belonging.
FHE has a relationship with Fareshare which is the national organisation that distributes surplus supermarket food to subscribing organisations – this is for both tinned, and chilled goods. Occasionally Kevin’s wife, Mel, will make a whole load of casseroles, and hand them out to the tenants. Those who are not skilled in cooking can have help with that as part of their overall support programme.
It’s all about relationship, tolerance, sensitivity, and working together for a future. Eviction is the absolute last resort, and whist it has happened it is extremely rare. Kevin will feel the failure as much as anyone. The natural progression is from the shared housing into the single flats. If someone gets a job, and they feel that the time is right, then there is a real option to move into Council Housing ( generally the tenants will have a higher priority status) or the Private Rented Sector. 2 of the units under the FHE umbrella are not supported, but the tenants still wanted to maintain that looser connection with Kevin and Mel – they just felt more comfortable that way.
It is always possible to do more, but with this very special approach scalability is not straightforward as it centres around personal commitment. There is only 1 other employee who is the general repairs and maintenance person. Additional funding will enable the properties to be furnished to a higher standard and facilitate more of the group outings, but bringing in more people will be a delicate process as, dilution of the ethos, would be the main concern.
The approach of FHE demonstrates the principle that solving homelessness ( or avoiding it) is not just about giving someone a house. It may deal with a short-term functional issue, but for people to truly escape the grip of homelessness they need real support, community and positive relationships.
When people move on and leave FHE, the relationship doesn’t end. They may have become ex-tenants but not ex-friends.
Categories: Homelessness / poverty