Katie is our Dual Diagnosis Worker at The Passage. For Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to her about how she helps clients at The Passage.
What were you doing before joining The Passage? Before coming to The Passage, I worked in a temporary accommodation hostel in Belfast, supporting residents who were dealing with heroin use and related mental health problems. I felt that the experiences and skills that I developed in this challenging role in Belfast made me a perfect fit for the dual diagnosis role at The Passage and here I am.
What does a day in the life of your role look like? The mental health team receives referrals from Customer Service Advisors in the Rough Sleepers team, as they make the initial assessments of rough sleepers to see what specialist support is required.
My manager, Roseina, will then delegate the different cases based on the client’s individual circumstances. Each member of the mental health team has a different focus: Caroline deals with substance misuse, Bill covers mental health, and I am able to bring perspective from both areas.
Once we have been allocated a client, we will arrange a follow-up meeting, which depending on what stage they are in their journey – will focus on harm reduction or straightforward catch ups to check in on them at regular intervals.
A new addition to our timetable which caters for people who may still be in the very early stages of seeking support, would be an open invitation to attend our Breakfast Club where the conversation of mental health/addiction is approached over breakfast in a psychologically informed environment, without pressure.
How do you approach an initial conversation with an entrenched rough sleeper? I would make sure to use open-ended questions to encourage the client to share as much as possible about their circumstances in a way that they feel comfortable – as opposed to using closed questions which may inadvertently limit responses.
I also focus on motivational interviewing techniques as this enables the client to look forwards at what they want to achieve 3/6/9 months down the line and what obstacles they feel may be preventing them – this is often heavily linked to a cycle of drinking, addiction, and sleeping on the streets.
To help clients to understand and be more inclined to get involved with this strategy, I will ask them to draw it out. I do this by providing them with a drawing of a stick man on one end of a path facing a hole. The client will then write or draw out all of the obstacles that might be taking up space in the hole and blocking them from reaching the other side of the path on the other end of the hole. This is a positive way of encouraging discussion and also finding potential solutions for the obstacles, such as being linked in to various services, which provides a ‘bridge’ to go over the hole and forward into the next 3-6-9 months.
What have you got planned for Mental Health Awareness Week? We have incorporated mindfulness into our Breakfast Club this week. Mindfulness is really important as it helps people to ground themselves and take time to focus on the present moment. We will be linking this to the theme of nature by encouraging clients to explore with us during calming walks outside. It is that much easier to remind yourself of the bigger picture when you are in brighter surroundings.
The Passage are grateful to Perrigo Charitable Foundation for helping to fund Katie’s role.
My name is Jenny Travassos and I joined The Passage in early January. I started working in the sector in 2004 as a volunteer for homelessness charity Broadway, going on to hold various frontline and management roles. In 2014 I joined Westminster City Council where I became Head of Rough Sleeping. During my time with the council, I made substantial changes to enable more specialist accommodation services, developed high level partnerships with health colleagues and introduced two strategies.
I joined The Passage because it is an organisation that is led by its values while also having a strong voice for change; whether that be with central and local government or with our partners across the sector and beyond.
Over the last few months, I’ve spent time listening and learning from colleagues and the people who use our services. The overwhelming message is that we have an opportunity to reflect on what we have learned from working throughout the pandemic and the remarkable outcomes achieved by our teams.
We also have a golden opportunity to review each element of our work to ensure that we do not lose the momentum achieved with the ‘Everyone In’ initiative, which has seen the numbers of people on the streets reduce significantly.
Looking ahead, one of my priorities is further developing our services to meet the future needs of individuals who we are likely to see. For example, rolling out additional preventative services to help stop people from ending up on the streets in the first place. I am also reviewing our employment programmes to ensure that we can respond quickly and help people who have fallen out of work during the pandemic. We will be working closely with our corporate partners and business leaders to increase the number of training and work opportunities available to our clients.
In the coming months, we plan to share more information about the outcomes we achieve, enabling our supporters to better understand the impact of our work. One particular outcome has stood out for me so far; in the past 9 months, we have supported 95 people into longterm sustainable accommodation!
No one organisation can solve homelessness on its own, so I will also be focusing on developing partnerships that build on the great work we do. Our voice and our services will be needed more than ever in the months and years ahead; The Passage has a key role to play in shaping and influencing the policies that affect our work and representing the voices of those who use our services. I look forward to sharing more about these important developments with you.
The Passage, which runs London’s largest resource centre for people who are vulnerably housed or street homeless, today opened a dedicated vaccination hub which, as a specific one-off day of action, gives them the opportunity to protect themselves from Covid-19.
Working in partnership with the NHS North West London Clinical Commissioning Group, Westminster City Council and charity partners, the facility is staffed by Passage frontline case workers and the NHS Homeless Health Team. It is running as a drop-in centre with no prior appointment necessary, providing easy access for those on the streets as well as people currently in temporary hotel accommodation, hostels and other residential projects. The Passage’s local outreach team will signpost people directly to the centre.
The Passage will assist the NHS to ensure that all those vaccinated on this one day of action will have access to their second vaccination. The plan is to facilitate future vaccinations clinics if there is demand.
Jenny Travassos, Director of Services and New Developments at The Passage said:
“Over the last 12 months, we were proud to be part of the Everyone In initiative, working with local and central government and other partners to protect hundreds of extremely vulnerable people with safe routes off the street. However, this must be viewed as a starting point and if we are to have any hope of ending rough sleeping, we must build on the lessons learnt during the last year. One of the most important things we can do right now is ensure everyone has access to the vaccination programme – people who are street homeless have a significantly lower life-expectancy and are at higher clinical risk of chronic disease, and this one-off day of action will help them to access a potentially lifesaving vaccine. We all have a role to play in ending rough sleeping and The Passage will continue to play our role in both preventing and ending rough sleeping for the thousands of people we work with.”
For further information, please call 020 7592 1856 or email [email protected]