Homelessness is a complex problem and, for many, it is not simply solved by finding a house. If the underlying causes are not addressed, and active support not provided, then the likelihood is that the individual will bounce between hostels, friend’s sofas, or living on the street – forever – progressively deteriorating.
Derby has a wide range of homelessness provisions ranging from those which are essentially “sticking plasters” to those which are totally committed to a holistic solution to the person’s life situation. Recently, Derby has seen the opening of a new 30 bed Engagement Centre owned and operated by PACE (Promote Ability Community Enterprise), an independent Community Interest Company (which means that its profits are re-invested back into its charitable purpose which is to “deliver effective affordable services and housing for disadvantaged people in Derby and Derbyshire”)
PACE has been operating for a number of years and already has supported housing throughout the City. Last year the opportunity arose to purchase the old Hartington House in Normanton which, previously, was a temporary hostel for homeless people. PACE wanted to use this as a more longer term accommodation with sustainable outcomes for their service users hence the term, Engagement Centre.
The property was completely refurbished, to make it a much brighter, cleaner, and attractive building recognising that it would be a temporary home for 30 people. Security is important so there are cameras that ensure safety but which maintain dignity.
PACE House, has 30 single bedrooms. People can either self-refer, or be referred by other agencies. Before anyone is accepted a full risk assessment is carried out, as well as understanding their needs, issues ( drug / alcohol addiction), mental health state etc. It is critical that the person wishes to engage, and that they accept the basic ground rules of the accommodation, and that they can fit in with the other service users. No sex offenders are accepted, and no drugs / alcohol are allowed in the rooms, although provisions are made where critical addiction problems exist.
All service users have an engagement plan, which is unique to them, and which is reviewed regularly to ensure that they are progressing towards their personal independence , and recovery goals. There are many opportunities for developmental activities, including:
- Computer training room
- Allotment area for growing crops, and cooking skills training
- Budgetting and life skills
- Farm, near Ashby with livestock
- Craft workshops
- Drama and Arts classes
It is recognised that many of the residents will have complex behavioural problems, and life at PACE House will not always be smooth. The staff and support workers have years of experience of these challenges, and are committed to working through such crises. Eviction, whilst a possibility, is a distant threat, as there are very limited options outside of PACE House.
PACE House is not operating in isolation. Spencer Braydon-Phillips, the CEO, is clear that all agencies in the City must work in partnership as the overall problem is much bigger than any one organisation can manage. He is closely linked with the Council, Milestone and Centenary House, No Second Night Out, the Nightshelters, and Street Safe ( hot food distribution on the street – controlled by PACE) amongst many others, and is open to co-operating with any organisation that can enhance the outcomes for homeless people.
PACE House is independent, and is funded via enhanced Housing Benefits that are designed for people who are living in this style of intensive supported accommodation. It means that they are not tied to the Council, or vulnerable to short term political priorities.
This is a welcome addition to the homelessness provision in the City, and one that has the scope to make a sustainable improvement to the lives of those engaged within the Centre. Sadly, Derby needs many more of these places to address the full extent of the complexity of needs of those who find themselves constantly vulnerable to the prospect of sleeping rough on the streets.
Categories: Homelessness / poverty