Christina joined The Connection just over two years ago. She works as a Recovery and Resettlement Manager at St Martin’s House, a recovery project in the London borough of Wandsworth. The project is well integrated within the local community of Wandsworth, located near the park of Clapham Common. St Martin’s House is a supported accommodation project with 16 self-contained units to enable people who have been street homeless to recover in a stable and supported living environment. It offers a range of holistic services to support people with their recovery, housing both men and women who have a variety of support needs, all of whom have slept rough. The residents are diverse, with the youngest being 25 and the oldest 72.
People are offered a place at the project via a number of routes. Wandsworth council, for example, carry out outreach on the local streets and refer people in who are in need of accommodation and are the main referral to St Martin’s House. The Connection at St Martin’s clients are also referred to the service, with the current residents a mixture of people who were rough sleeping in Westminster and Wandsworth. Christina explains that The Connection clients often see a big difference from being on the streets of Westminster, “they often comment on how different it is in Wandsworth in comparison to central London.”
People who have spent time sleeping on the streets can have a variety of needs that they have to work through to recover such as ill mental health and psychological issues involving multi-layered trauma that they have suffered in the past. Every person is different and is coming to the streets from a unique set of circumstances. They need to be treated and supported as individuals in order to recover from their time on the streets. These needs, as Christina explains, “are better observed and cared for when people are in supported accommodation, and not within temporary accommodation provisions.” Temporary accommodations, of course, have their own unique value and while the provision of accommodation is crucial to keeping people safe in an emergency response, it is clear that people are able to better address their needs in a supported accommodation provision and safe environment such as St Martins’ House.
The team at St Martin’s House have been developing the accommodation and have recently added a new communal space, enhancing the value of the services. This allows the residents the space to be able to relax outside of their rooms but also to take part in therapeutic groups. Residents at St Martin’s House are able to take part in a number of activities including a gardening group lead by the recovery and opportunities team from The Connection. Christina explains the impact this has had, “a lot of our residents might have never known they were green fingered, but they’ve really enjoyed it, they’ve been growing organic vegetables and fruit over the summer and into the autumn. A few weeks ago the gardening co-ordinator was on annual leave but the residents continued the group by themselves for that week. I think that shows how important it is to them. They’ve spoken about how deeply therapeutic they find it.”
On-site there are sessions for employment and training, with staff from The Connection visiting to provide a drop in service so residents can get advice on employment. There is also the opportunity for residents to be involved in co-production opportunities, such as being on recruitment panels at The Connection. Psychological provision is provided as part of a new collaboration with SLAM (South London and Maudley NHS Trust), with a psychologist coming on-site to work with the residents. St Martin’s House provides a holistic approach that incorporates best practice in the sector.
St Martin’s House is a life changing project that wouldn’t be possible without support. None of this would be possible without the generous donations from our supporters and Wandsworth Borough Council who commission the project.
We’re here for people experiencing homelessness, every day. We get to know people, building lasting relationships as they recover from life on the streets and move on to fulfilling futures.
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