Riverside providing support to the homeless

One of the care providers of supported housing, Riverside Care and Support, is raising awareness of services for people who are homeless in Doncaster. Riverside is commissioned by Doncaster Council…

One of the care providers of supported housing, Riverside Care and Support, is raising awareness of services for people who are homeless in Doncaster.

Riverside is commissioned by Doncaster Council to provide support and housing to people in Doncaster who may find themselves homeless.

Riverside’s Wharf House is a 30-bed residency with four emergency beds. It provides supported accommodation, with experienced staff supporting homeless people with complex needs.

People who may find themselves homeless can self-refer or be referred to Wharf House via support agencies. Whilst at Wharf House people are assessed to see what specific support they need and given temporary accommodation while their support needs are put in place.

They offer 24-hour structured support plans tailored to individual needs that builds practical and social skills to encourage independence. Riverside’s approach is to work in partnership with agencies, including the council, South Yorkshire Housing, South Yorkshire Police, addiction support groups, and Doncaster town centre management team.

It also delivers access to education, training and employment and operates a policy that encourages former homeless clients to volunteer or work as Grow Trainees within its services, to help the transition back to work.

One person who came to Wharf House looking for support was Michael Morris.

Michael, 44, is a recovering alcoholic and approximately five years ago he became homeless. He became a resident of Wharf House, where he now works as a volunteer, helping co-ordinate donations.

Michael said: “The alcohol cost me my marriage, my job, my family. It took everything. I was the architect of my own downfall. I simply couldn’t say no, I was an addict.

“Even when I’ve been on the street, with holes in my pockets, and not bathed for weeks at a time, I was still drinking whenever I could get it. But I couldn’t go on anymore.”

He went in and out of Riverside’s services, before lapsing and ending back on the streets. Last year, he was taken to Worksop A & E. On discharge, he made his way back to Doncaster in freezing temperatures and approached Riverside’s Wharf House.

He continued, “For me, the reality was it was the middle of winter, there was snow on ground, the possibility of freezing. I had so much going through my mind, I have children, I have brothers, I have a mum and dad, I have really, really good friends who tried to help but I wasn’t in the right headspace to accept that help.

“If it hadn’t been for Riverside, I don’t know, I dread to think, it was a very dark moment of my life at that point, I couldn’t stop drinking, obviously I had to sober up to enter the premises and register into recovery – which I did. I needed that support. I needed the roof over my head so I could start the transition back into everyday living.”

Today, Michael works as a volunteer at Wharf House, helping manage donations. He writes a gratitude list every night – to remind him to be thankful for a warm bed, a shower.

“At Christmas, I had none of that last year because I was on the streets. And all this is through Riverside’s backing and support. When I’m here volunteering, I’m not Michael the alcoholic, I’m Michael the co-worker, part of the team, that’s how they make me feel. That’s how it should be. Addiction in society is so, so stigmatised. Addiction does not choose race, colour, creed, class. Riverside didn’t turn their back on me; they supported me all the way and helped me get to where I am today.”

Riverside operates Doncaster Homelessness Outreach Services, which works directly with people who are sleeping rough or homeless to engage with services and move into safe and secure accommodation. It offers a daily drop-in service at Wharf House for tenancy related advice. The service is part of the No Second Night Out initiative, with access to emergency accommodation.

Outreach worker, Lisa Ray, said: “It takes a long time to build trust with people who have complex issues. I will offer someone a coffee but I’ll invite them in for it, and say, ‘let’s have a chat’. We are here for the long term and we want our clients to engage with our services.

Lisa added: “In addition to our day-to-day Outreach service, we offer a rapid response service to rough sleepers. The public can make a referral to our service via the streetlink app, emailing the Outreach team, or by phoning us on 01302 558014. We offer all rough sleepers the opportunity to engage with support in relation to accommodation, benefits and sign posting to other agencies.”

For Michael, Christmas is looking very different this year.

“I’m going to spend it with my mum, having lunch with my mum. At the start of this year my family weren’t even talking to me – none of my family – I’ve not seen my daughter, my son, my mum and dad, my brothers, cousins, nephews – nobody. I was such a mess. And now I’m going to be spending Xmas with them. I’m grateful to see my children on Christmas Day, knowing full well that I’ll be sober.”

The Outreach Team accommodates on average 76% of those who access the Emergency Bed within three nights. The teams close ties with both public and private sector organisations means a much higher success rate in rehoming than those who choose not to access the service.

Cllr Jane Nightingale, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Homelessness is a national issue and something that we all need to work together to address. We commission Riverside to help us support homeless people across Doncaster. It is great to see the difference they are making in the borough to help people, like Michael turn their life around.

“Homelessness is a complex issue and there is no one thing that any agency, organisation, volunteer group or individual can do to eradicate it. By working together and provide not only the support and care but by also by helping to build self-esteem we believe that we can go some way to ensure that no one needs to be homeless.”

If you find yourself homeless or know someone who is then refer people to the Rapid Response Team:  Email: nsno.doncaster@riverside.org.uk Tel: 01302 558014.