Many people using the day centre lack the basic skills necessary to sustain tenancies, look after themselves adequately or cope emotionally with living alone, with 40% suffering from mental health problems, and 20% abusing drugs or alcohol.
Many homeless people find it almost impossible to find any form of employment, with long breaks from work and the inability to obtain references. Repeated rejections to job applications prompt depression and despondency, which can in turn lead to poor physical and mental health. The experience of The Porch staff has shown that the best way to prevent people falling into the almost inevitable spiral of repeat homelessness is sustained, careful one-to-one support that addresses the root causes of their problems.
In October 2016, OCF made a £5,000 grant to The Porch for their ‘Steppin’ Forward’ initiative. This project helps vulnerable people develop catering skills, giving them a realistic opportunity to find work or engage in a positive volunteering role. The Porch’s kitchen Manager works individually with participants to train them in food preparation, preserve and chutney making, and kitchen hygiene. This is accompanied by assistance with finding work, which includes CV preparation, job interview skills and recruitment agency referrals.
One participant joined the scheme after suffering a breakdown due to grief, and subsequently losing his job and home. The Porch project workers helped him find a temporary bed in a hostel, and he became a volunteer in the kitchen. The Porch’s Fundraising Officer Alex Lipinski says: “His confidence and self-esteem improved as he interacted with staff, and he also attended The Porch’s weekly job club. His project worker referred him to an employment agency with a good reference from the kitchen manager, as a result of which he is now working at a local restaurant, and has moved into privately rented accommodation.”
Having identified housing and homelessness as one of the biggest local social problems in our Oxfordshire Uncovered research, OCF is keen to build our understanding of the issues, in particular by linking with local experts via the recently created ‘Homeless Voice’ forum. This brings together all the charitable and statutory organisations that are supporting people in Oxfordshire to move away from homelessness permanently – for example from rough sleeping to supported living to independent housing, and into work. We have been talking in some depth with leading homelessness charities Oxford Homeless Pathways and Aspire to access their networks and learn how OCF can help them tackle this problem in a long-term, reflective and meaningful way.