Interview with Ian Scott; Manager at The Bridge

(3 Min Read)

Some people been rough sleepers for a long time and it’s very hard to get used to living in a building again. They might go back on the streets for a couple of nights and then come back here. There are a lot of emotional issues and trauma for people who’ve lived on the streets. Women are especially vulnerable, particularly to assaults, as so few of them are around. Guests’ benefits and income are often in a complete mess so we work with them to sort this out. Some people arrive without basic necessities such as clothes and shoes, which we help provide. One of the challenges for people getting off the streets is not having a bank account. What people don’t realise is that without one, it’s nearly impossible to make a Universal Credit application and get benefits. We work with HSBC to get people set up with bank accounts. A few people have been very unwell with their mental health and we’ve managed to work within the service to help them get better. We also work with the community mental health teams who carry out assessments and get them the right treatment so they can recover. Many of our guests have experienced years of addiction. It’s so intertwined that you have to deal with both mental health and substance use issues together.

The Bridge delivers really well for people– it’s well staffed during the day and at night and between us we’ve got about 300 years’ worth of experience in this field, which is outstanding. The on the ground knowledge means staff know the guests- when they’re getting on well, and can spot triggers. Consistency of staff is so important for people. People have been let down many times until they come here. They don’t like telling their story again and again to different people whilst knowing that someone’s going to leave and won’t finish the tasks they’ve agreed . Staff come here with the right attitude, which is that helping the guests is the most important thing. It’s about enthusiasm, caring and compassion. If a guest wants a coffee or a cheese toastie, the staff just sprint down the stairs to get it done. You don’t see that everywhere. It builds trust. People start to respond because they begin to feel that people really care. It’s obvious when people don’t care. They know, we all do.

A real benefit for people here is privacy. Everyone has a nice room with en- suite bathroom. There’s a laundry, food and lots of snacks available for clients. There is also space for one to one interviews. Generally, hostels will try to get people onto a programme straightaway and there’s pressure to move on. Here you start off with no pressure, there are not many forms to sign unless you want to. Sometimes people walk out if they feel we are asking for too much information, but they can always come back in.

Partnership work is vital. It’s one of the things that have come out of CV 19. We have a nurse and psychologists coming in twice a week and Turning Point comes in once a week. We’ve got peer to peer support starting soon and a partnership with the job centre, which helps us out with chasing people’s benefits. Fortnightly, we have a meeting, where all the different organisations discuss how to support clients -the newer ones or those that we’ve got concerns about. We all get together in one room, Bridge staff, clients’ keyworkers, other homelessness agencies and representatives from health and mental health. It’s useful to move things forward for someone.

We work with people who have had multiple disadvantages for year after year after year. You have to be patient as people may miss a lot of appointments. It’s important to understand what they’ve had to deal with in their past and why they may not respond immediately. We keep positive and don’t make a fuss, instead saying ‘Let’s try and get the next thing done. I’ll make sure I’m available for you.’

My life’s been pretty stable, with a few problems like anyone else. But nothing too bad. I look at what our guests here have faced and think, what on earth would I be like if I had gone through all the traumas that they have gone through?

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