‘Giving people a fresh start in life’
“We help people who are living in their own homes but need support to ensure they are able to keep a roof over their head.” Ola Pedro, Team Leader at St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team North, tells us about how his team supports people who previously slept rough to live independently in the community.
St Mungo’s Tenancy Sustainment Team (TST) North works with people who formerly slept rough and who are now housed across North London. Our team supports them to maintain their tenancies and to further develop their skills and confidence to move on into independent accommodation – moving away from homelessness for good.
We want to make sure people are socially included. We link them with packages of support, as needed – around mental health, substance misuse, employment, ex-offending, offending – as well as other activities to help them sustain their tenancies and feel part of the wider community.
‘We carry out home visits to make sure that people are living safely’
We work with people who are often tackling three or more health and other issues, for example, substance use, risk of offending, and or physical and mental health problems. The sector jargon would be ‘high needs’ clients and they can need a lot more intense one to one support.
We carry out home visits regularly to check that people are living safely. If there are any issues around their support needs, these can be represented in how they live. For example, if a person is going through severe depression, the state of their property can reveal that. These visits mean we can make sure the person is comfortable in their home, in their area, and to identify any maintenance issues or anything that landlords need to be aware of.
Benefits are a major issue at the moment. The roll out of Universal Credit has caused a lot of stress for our clients. We are finding many people are having to go without money while their applications are being processed, for six to eight weeks. This is something that TST staff have had to pick up. If not, it creates issues which permeate into every other area of people’s lives and means they need even more support. We help people, for example, by offering food vouchers and topping up their electricity and gas, if needed. We have drop-ins every Monday and Friday, so people can also come in and sit down with us for some support if they want.
‘I feel joy when I go home’
I got into St Mungo’s through volunteering at St Mungo’s Islington Mental Health Team. I tried a corporate job but just didn’t find it rewarding. I like the dynamism of this role – it’s extremely active, you’re never in once place for a long time. I’m the team manager but I also work with clients, I support around 55 clients myself. I’ll visit about four or five clients in one day, each needing different kinds of support, so it’s about balancing that with the managing and admin side of the role.
I feel joy when I go home as I know I’m making a difference. I’m improving the quality of people’s lives – taking them from a place where they are not so happy to a place where they can feel confident, and our team are part of that process.
‘Giving people a fresh start in life’
I supported one person, for example, who had his tenancy taken over by a group of drug dealers. They were force feeding him crack cocaine and heroin, just so they could use his accommodation to cook and to sell the drugs.
He didn’t actually tell me this had happened until I got a phone call to say that he’d been admitted into hospital for abscesses on his arms and hands from injecting. He had also been beaten up really badly.
When I went to the hospital, I had a really long discussion with him about why he didn’t want to tell me this. He said there were a lot of feelings of guilt and shame around why he didn’t want to tell me what had happened.
We worked together very closely over the next three months and he’s now been rehoused away from that area. He got a chance to start a fresh life and went to rehab. He’s completely clean of the drugs that were forcibly put in his system.
When I go home and think about that story, that’s what drives me and makes me want to do this job always.