Adult Learners Week – Bristol Recovery College

    To celebrate Adult Learners’ Week we want to highlight our Bristol Recovery College Open Day.

    St Mungo’s Recovery Colleges provide an inclusive learning, training and employment service. We believe that learning can be a life-changing experience and make a real difference to people’s recovery and wellbeing.

    On Thursday 15 September Bristol Recovery College welcomed the people we support from across the city to their autumn term open day.

    They were able speak to tutors about all of the different courses and groups available, as well as talking to current students to learn first-hand what they love about the Bristol Recovery College.

    This is the third term that Bristol Recovery College has worked in partnership with the City of Bristol College and South Gloucester and Stroud College (SGS) to provide bespoke sessions in English, Maths, Digital Skills and Health & Wellbeing. With specialist tutors from both colleges attending the open day, the people we support were able to find out more about the courses and were supported to enrol.

    The Bristol Recovery College team – Lola, Yin and Steph – were on hand to help new students with their enrolment, as well as explaining how our progression coaching and employment support can help them to find a job or volunteer placement that’s right for them.

    Over the afternoon 12 students enrolled for the new term, with 31 visitors attending and learning more about what the Bristol Recovery College can offer.

    Anyone that we support in the local area are always welcome – no matter where they are in their recovery journey – and every student will also have the opportunity to meet with a progression coach to discuss their goals and future plans.

    Find out more about our recovery college here.

    Finding acceptance and understanding in the workplace

    Bi-Visibility day is the 23rd of September 2022. At St Mungo’s, we pride ourselves on inclusion, whether this is providing safe spaces for our clients in the LGBTQIA+ community, or access to our diversity networks for staff. Here, Liz from our Communications team discusses her experience of working at St Mungo’s.

    “Research from Stonewall shows that 31% of bisexual people having been insulted or harassed for their identity, and more broadly, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are much more likely to experience homelessness at some point in their lives. With this in mind, creating safe spaces and having an empathetic culture is so important to everything we do.

    At St Mungo’s, we make sure our services are informed about LGBTQIA+ issues, and are welcoming to everyone regardless of sexual or gender identity. When referring people to our different kinds of accommodation, we assess whether that environment is right for them, including any support needs they might have, and what will make them feel most safe.

    This understanding and acceptance also extends to our colleagues. When I first joined St Mungo’s, I was provided information about our diversity networks as part of my induction. Not only were we able to join the networks we identified with the most (roughly 10% of staff at St Mungo’s identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community), but simple things, like having posters that encourage you to use the toilets that best fit your gender identity, and information about our workplace supporter scheme for anything and everything you might need, made for an incredibly welcoming environment.

    I’d never been part of an organisation that so openly celebrated the diversity of its staff in every way. There’s a school of thought that you should always be authentic to yourself, and it was this environment that helped me to feel that I was able to be entirely myself around my colleagues for the first time in any job I’ve ever had.

    The acceptance that I’ve seen and received at St Mungo’s has been so important. The meetings for our LGBTQIA+ network that I’ve attended have been so friendly and welcoming, and I’ve even been able to support on some projects for Pride. I’ve met people in the network who I’ve then come across in other areas of the organisation, meaning I already have a connection, which has been really valuable, particularly during the pandemic.

    There is an incredible commitment to diversity and inclusion at St Mungo’s, not just for staff but also for the people we support. And so, this Bisexual Awareness Week, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate everything we’re doing to make people feel safe, valued and understood.”

    Find out more about Diversity and Inclusion at St Mungo’s.

    St Mungo’s welcomes the new Rough Sleeping Strategy

    Leading homelessness charity St Mungo’s welcomes the Government’s ambitious new rough sleeping strategy ‘Ending Rough Sleeping for Good’.

    The new strategy, published on 3 September 2022, commits £2 billion over the next three years to intensify efforts to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping.

    The strategy has a strong focus on prevention and tackling the root causes of homelessness stating that: “no one in our society should have to suffer the injustice of living a life on the streets”.

    Interim CEO of St Mungo’s Rebecca Sycamore said:

    “As a leading homelessness charity we know first-hand how important it is to focus on the root causes of rough sleeping in order to help break that cycle. We deliver a huge range of services to support people out of homelessness and into rebuilding their lives and so welcome this new strategy.

    “A main aspect of our own strategy is delivering services around the prevention of homelessness and so measures to help achieve that are particularly welcomed. It is also good to see that this is a joined up piece of work with support from across Government departments – again this is something that we have been calling for for some time. Only by working together will we be able to make a real step change in ensuring no one has to sleep on our streets.”

    The strategy commits to delivering:

    • Better prevention, so that fewer people sleep rough in the first place
    • Swift and effective intervention, so that people who sleep rough receive tailored support
    • Extra help to aid recovery, with services working together to help people off the streets
    • A more transparent and joined up system, learning from best practice to provide a world-leading response to rough sleeping.

    Rebecca continued: “For the first time, the strategy defines what successfully ending rough sleeping would look like: that rough sleeping should be prevented where possible, but that where it does occur it should be rare, brief, and non-recurring.

    “We have also consistently advocated that rough sleeping needs long-term solutions, particularly through longer term funding. The Government has recognised this, announcing new funding for the Single Homelessness Accommodation Programme, which will help people to recover from homelessness over time and to rebuild their lives.”

    St Mungo’s further welcomes the strategy’s whole system approach to tackling the root cause of rough sleeping, including a focus on strengthened partnerships, improved employment support, and investment in mental health and drug and alcohol provision.

    “If the comprehensive vision laid out in this strategy is followed through across Government, and backed up with the funding and partnership working required, then we have a real chance to end rough sleeping which the government committed to do so by 2024”.

    Outside of this strategy, the Government must take urgent action for a more robust response to the cost of living crisis, to ensure that economic conditions do not overwhelm our shared ambition to end rough sleeping.

    Psychotherapy student, Ari* shares their experience of completing a clinical placement with St Mungo’s Psychotherapy service, LifeWorks

    Why did you apply for a placement with St Mungo’s?

    This is my first psychotherapy placement but I was intrigued by the opportunity to work with and help clients with complex needs and to support those who may not have the means to refer themselves to local services or community counselling services.

    Who are the clients you support?

    I support current and previous residents of St Mungo’s and other clients of St Mungo’s support services. Some people have experienced homelessness, others haven’t but have other support needs.

    Is your placement remote or in-person?

    I started my placement with St. Mungo’s during the pandemic. It was a funny time to start at LifeWorks as they had recently had to change their model from supporting clients in person to working remotely. Now restrictions have lifted, I’m starting to meet client’s in-person at a local hostel. I’m lucky that there is a fantastic hostel located nearby to me as my time is quite limited – it’s a great selling point that there are many hostels ran by St. Mungo’s all over the place, so there’s plenty of options for trainees.

    How have you found working in the hostel?

    My experience of the hostel has been great! I have a private room for my client sessions, staff are happy for me to reorganise the furniture and as the room is only accessible by staff I know we won’t have any interruptions. It is also reassuring knowing that after our sessions end the hostel staff are there to offer my clients ongoing support.
    I love working with my client’s in-person and have found the experience so rewarding.

    Have you felt supported during your placement?

    My LifeWorks supervisor is so supportive and they make sure I’m comfortable with every client referral I take on. We also have fortnightly clinical supervision which is run in small groups with one or two others and is psychodynamic orienteered. It’s helped my learning having a supervisor who knows the client group very well as I’ve really been able to explore my clients’ issues in depth and get a lot of insight.

    Have you had any challenges during your placement?

    It can be quite challenging to arrange sessions because of the chaotic nature of the some of the residents’ lives. However, if there was someone who wasn’t turning up repeatedly, my supervisor helped me put boundaries in place so that it wouldn’t go on too long. It didn’t take long for me to build client relationships and I now have three clients who I see regularly.

    What do you enjoy most about your St Mungo’s LifeWorks placement?

    My placement with St. Mungo’s has allowed me to gain experience with clients with complex needs. I’ve had the same clients since the beginning which is something that I really value about my placement. It’s rare for a placement to be so open-ended so I like that I can work with my supervisor and client to agree when to finish our sessions. Another thing I value is that LifeWorks will support people who are in active addiction. This is unique as a lot of therapy/psychological organisations will only offer help to those who are abstinent.

    Would you like to do a clinical placement or gain work experience with St Mungos?

    Check out our current volunteering opportunities or get in touch with studentplacements@mungos.org

    Karl’s Volunteering Story

    Karl has been volunteering with StreetLink, a service that helps connect people who are sleeping rough with local services available to them, since October 2021.

    Here he shares his motivations to volunteer, his experience with StreetLink and the importance of this vital volunteer-led service.

    Street homelessness is a very precarious situation and an increasingly pressing social justice issue. Unfortunately, it has become very common in the UK, to the point of being normalised in many parts of the country.

    I decided to volunteer with StreetLink because I wanted to support people who are experiencing street homelessness and I liked that StreetLink had a wide reach, offering support to people across the country.
    Every day StreetLink receives many calls and web alerts, and the team (made up of staff and volunteers) help to connect clients to support services so they can get further help to address their housing and welfare situation.

    I volunteer once a week for 2 hours, from St Mungo’s head office near Tower Bridge. When I arrive, there is always a staff member there to welcome me and get me settled in – which really helps you to feel a part of the team.

     

    “The most memorable call I have taken was a caller who told me that this was the first time they could remember being spoken to like a human being”

     

    The calls I take can vary from shorter calls where a member of the public wants some information about local services to longer calls where someone is reporting a sleep site – in which case very specific details about the location and person’s appearance are taken to pass on to local outreach teams.
    More challenging calls can sadly come from people who are distressed or experiencing a mental health crisis. Sometimes, a person will need a more urgent response than StreetLink can provide, so we would refer them to their local authority via what is known as a safeguarding concern. On other occasions we’ve had to call an ambulance to do a more urgent assessment. These calls are very difficult for the person calling in, so as a volunteer I make sure to stay calm and use the support of staff where needed.
    Every call you take with StreetLink is memorable in its own way and every experience of homelessness is important.

     

    “City life can be anonymous but these calls show that people still care about their fellow citizens who are struggling.”

     

    In the middle of winter, and on particularly colder nights, it’s very touching to receive calls from members of the public who have spotted someone that appears at risk.Often people will stop to check the person is ok so we can speak to the person via their phone or passing the person’s number on to us. City life can be anonymous but these calls show that people still care about their fellow citizens who are struggling.

    The most memorable call I have taken was a caller who told me that this was the first time they could remember being spoken to like a human being. This was incredibly moving and important – respect and kindness are so basic, but are often lacking. These moments of human connection – supporting people who are struggling and helping them to navigate the system – are so significant for each person who calls.

    I would definitely encourage anyone who has the time and motivation to support people sleeping rough to volunteer with StreetLink. As an individual, St Mungo’s mission to end homelessness can feel difficult to achieve (especially when you look at the volume of calls StreetLink are receiving). However, from my experience, the impact of treating people with respect, helping them to navigate a complex system and access help quicker, will help you to feel like you are contributing towards those broader social justice aims and taking a step closer towards making them real.

    Want to volunteer? Find our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Jeremy and Wendy share their experience of volunteering with First Response

    Jeremy and Wendy have been volunteering with First Response, a service that helps the outreach team find people who are sleeping rough quicker, since March 2022.
    Here they share their motivations for volunteering and how they have found their first couple of months.

    Jeremy’s story:

    In my day job, I work with vulnerable adults in supported housing. I’ve heard so many stories from these adults about their experiences rough sleeping in the past, and it is so visible to see all around on the streets of London.

    London is supposed to be such an affluent place, yet it has one of the biggest problems with homelessness. I decided that I wanted to be involved in work that is directly aimed at trying to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets and safe, and First Response is that.

    “For anyone thinking about volunteering with First Response, I would definitely say give it a try.”

    Outreach workers spend so much time and effort in looking for people experiencing homelessness. As a First Responder, I can help filter out who needs the help, which makes the outreach workers role slightly easier. So many people that are experiencing homelessness do not know where or how to get help for their situation or how to access services.

    A First Responders role is the first step in that individual receiving help. There are times when I have not found anyone throughout the whole shift and it can be disheartening at times. I always remember that when no one is found it can be a positive, as it means less time is wasted and the Outreach Workers can spend their time going to and finding the individuals that are out and experiencing homelessness that night. So even when I feel like my contribution doesn’t count, I’m reminded that it does.

    “My role does make a difference. It may be seen as a small contribution, but if a lot of people contribute small that then grows into something big.”

    For anyone thinking about volunteering with First Response, I would definitely say give it a try. The whole team are so helpful, and I was coached through the whole process. If you are an individual that is looking at practical ways to help people experiencing homelessness, I would recommend First Response. My role does make a difference. It may be seen as a small contribution, but if a lot of people contribute small that then grows into something big.

    Wendy’s story:

    I decided to join First Response as I had set myself a new year’s resolution to do something for my community. Homelessness is a huge problem in London and when I found out that St Mungo’s had open applications and offered training and support for this work, I decided to apply.

    On my first shift, I went out with another volunteer who was new. The shift went surprisingly smoothly as the training beforehand had been comprehensive, covering all the questions we might otherwise have had. Unfortunately my first shift, in February, was on the coldest night of the year, but I still enjoyed meeting my shift partner, and all of the St Mungo’s team were really supportive.

    “I think that going out as a First Response volunteer has been eye opening and a good way to help end homelessness.”

    I have now been out on 4 First Response shifts. On my 3rd shift, I was sent an email letting me know how many people sleeping rough that my partner and I had found were subsequently seen by the Outreach team. It was very motivating to know people were getting support.

    As I am relatively new to this work, I don’t think I know enough to comment on what else could be done to end homelessness yet. However, I really hope that the time between them first being reported to St Mungo’s and their access to support services can be as short a time as possible. Of course, it is upsetting to see the poor physical and mental state of some of the people rough sleeping, particularly on cold nights.

    I would definitely recommend volunteering with First Response. The training and support provided by St Mungo’s is excellent. On a personal level, I have enjoyed meeting the other volunteers when out on a shift. My shift partners have all been curious about doing further training and becoming part of the Outreach team. I think that going out as a First Response volunteer has been eye opening and a good way to help end homelessness.

    Could you Volunteer?

    View our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Crystal’s Volunteering Story

    Crystal has been a Communications Volunteer with the Volunteer Services team since July 2021.

    Here she shares how she’s increasing the visibility of our inspiring volunteers as well as discussing some of the exciting events we have lined up for this Volunteers Week!

    What inspired you to volunteer?

    I’ve been volunteering with St Mungo’s on and off since the start of the pandemic. I started volunteering at the Emergency Hotels when I was on furlough, and loved it! The experience opened my eyes and showed me how caring and committed St Mungo’s are as an organisation, not only to their clients but their volunteers too.

    After my time at the Hotels ended, I applied to become a Communications Volunteer to use my experience in the marketing sector to help drive the growth of our online volunteer community. I have always been an advocate for social justice and believe communications can be used to drive this social purpose.

    Tell us more about your role?

    My daily tasks include writing and scheduling posts for the Volunteer Facebook page, interviewing and writing up case studies for the St Mungo’s blog, and working on the volunteer recruitment campaigns.

    I really enjoy hearing volunteer’s stories when I interview them. It’s amazing to chat to people who are just as passionate about the organisation’s mission as I am and to learn about their various roles – everything from gardening to psychotherapy volunteers.

     

    “I have always been an advocate for social justice and believe communications can be used to drive this social purpose.”

     

    I especially love hearing from volunteers who have moved into employment through our Volunteer Development Pathway. Their stories are always so inspiring and really highlight the dedication and support the Volunteers Services team provide.

    What’s been your favourite project so far?

    I love that I get to connect with so many different people across the organisation but my most recent project has definitely been my favourite so far!

    For Volunteers Week, I have helped to organise a Webinar talk with Kerri Douglas, an ex-client of St Mungo’s and author of ‘From Gutter to Glory’. On Tuesday 7th of June, Kerri will be joining us to talk about her experiences of homelessness and the impact volunteer relationships had on her recovery. She is such an inspiring person who is always open to talk about her experiences. I know volunteers and staff will find so much value in her talk

    Any hopes for the future?

    I would love for the volunteer’s online platforms to grow even more and for all of us to engage with each other more. Meeting like-minded people and talking about each other’s volunteer roles can open so many opportunities and give people a sense of community they might not have had before.

    I would also love to do more in-person meet ups with the rest of the volunteers. I’m so looking forward to Volunteers’ Week this year and will be attending our in-person London event as well as Kerri’s webinar, so if you’re a fellow volunteer then please don’t be shy – come and say hello!

    Find our current volunteering opportunities here.

    Thank you to our Hackney Half runners!

    Despite the hot weather, our St Mungo’s runners smashed the Hackney Half Marathon last week running an incredible 13.1 miles and raising over £10,000.

    It was amazing to have almost forty runners for St Mungo’s. Thank you, for joining us in our vision that everyone has a place to call home and can fulfil their hopes and ambitions. The money you raised could help to transform the lives of people experiencing homelessness.

    We loved cheering you on every step of the way and hope you enjoyed running too!

    After the race we were lucky to catch up with Sian, who ran for St Mungo’s and shared her experience of completing her first half marathon with us:

    How did you find the race?

    “I loved it. I didn’t realise how much I would enjoy it. It was very difficult but I paced myself and then sprinted towards the end. It was difficult but amazing!”

    Why did you run for St Mungo’s?

    “I live in Brixton and I see a lot of homelessness around all the time. I just feel it’s a basic human necessity to have a roof over your head and a place to call home. So, I wanted to do my part and raise some money for it, that’s why I chose St Mungo’s.”

     

    Thank you to Sian and to all our runners. We can’t wait again for next year’s race.


    Were you inspired? Get in before spaces close! Sign up for next year’s race on Sunday 21 May here.

    Designing the Chelsea garden: Darryl’s story

    Garden-design

    We’re incredibly lucky to be working with Cityscapes Director and Landscape Designer, Darryl Moore on our garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. He explains his vision behind the design, and what goes into creating a garden for the show.

    “Cityscapes began working with Putting Down Roots in 2012, when we created a pocket park in London Bridge called Gibbon’s Rent. It was a neglected alleyway which was being used for antisocial behavior, but we worked in partnership with the Architecture Foundation, Team London Bridge and Southwark Council to transform it into something everyone could enjoy. Putting Down Roots got involved in helping with the construction and they continue to maintain it to this day. Since then, we’ve worked together to create and maintain more pocket parks, as well as a number of temporary garden installations.

    “It’s been so inspiring to work with Putting Down Roots over the past 10 years. Horticultural therapy is really important for engaging with the world around us, and it’s great to see how that’s transformed people’s lives.

    “Now, we’re creating a garden at Chelsea, and we’re so excited! There’s an awful lot to do, but it’s a team effort, and a lot of fun. I like working with plants and materials, and bringing ideas to life. That’s really what it’s about – it’s a creative practice.

    “Our garden, The St Mungo’s Putting Down Roots Garden is a public pocket park, much like the ones we’ve created with Putting Down Roots in the past. Public spaces are so good for our health and wellbeing and that’s become particularly apparent during the pandemic. Chelsea normally showcases domestic gardens, but we think it’s really important to show public gardens that are inclusive and available to everyone. We want people to see that they can be designed imaginatively whilst also being sustainable.

    “We’re reusing a lot of materials, including some materials from the gardens at last year’s show. The garden demonstrates how they can be transformed into different things and recycled creatively.

    “After the show, the garden is going to be relocated to the London Bridge area, so it will be available for everyone to use and enjoy. Things shouldn’t be thrown away, much like people’s lives shouldn’t be written off because of homelessness.”

     


    Find out more about putting Down Roots at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show here.

    Building confidence through gardening: Emily’s story

    Emily explains how the Putting Down Roots team have been preparing for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and how gardening can help clients to build confidence.

    “I’m Emily and I’m a Gardener Trainer for Putting Down Roots. One of the places I work is at our beautiful gardens at Cedars Road in Clapham. We run gardening groups here twice a week, where we have a whole range of exciting horticultural things, including a herb garden, vegetable beds, a fish pond, poly tunnel, greenhouse and a really great compost area. Plus a lovely warm classroom for when it’s chilly.

    “The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the main event in the gardening calendar, so it will be a great experience for the whole Putting Down Roots team. Personally, I enjoy learning about the backstory of the different gardens, of why they’ve been designed and planted. I find that quite interesting, sometimes more interesting than the gardens themselves!

    “Our clients are very excited, and it’s a brilliant opportunity for them to see a big project through from start to finish. They’ve potted up and planted the actual plants that are being used within the garden, and have also been involved in preparing and planting up the design in situ at Chelsea. After the show, they’ll be helping to move the garden to its final home and destination in London Bridge. It will be a really good learning curve for them.

    “Darryl (the garden designer) has chosen an interesting selection of plants; predominantly native and wildlife friendly. It’s wonderful that the garden will be giving back to wildlife after the show, even in a busy urban setting like London Bridge. The trees we’re using are Hawthorn and Sorbus, which produce beautiful blossom, as well as berries – a great source of food for birds.

    “Overall, I hope this experience will help to grow our client’s confidence. That’s a lot of what we do really, helping people build their confidence through gardening. Perhaps it will give them inspiration to envisage what they could create in their own spaces – if they’ve got a garden, a balcony, or even just a windowsill inside, there’s so much they can do.”


    Find out more about putting Down Roots at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show here.

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