An Interview with staff from our Supported Housing services
Change Grow Live supported housing provides accommodation and support to high risk ex-offenders leaving prison. The services are based in Brighton and West Sussex, they focus on supporting people to reintegrate back to society and live as full of lives as possible.
We caught up with the Georgina Davies, Services Manager, and Hilary Lewis, Quality Manager, to talk about the service.
Tell us about the people you support
Hilary: We work with very marginalised people that often others would not entertain. People who are sex offenders, people who have murdered – they’re not the most popular people. We don’t condone their offending behaviour but we see them as people still. I don’t think many would think they deserve anything, but supporting them helps to make society safer. Strip them of all their power and I think you create quite a high risk of them offending again.
Georgina: I totally agree. I don’t believe people are defined by their behaviour. With our service users, when you read all the information about their backgrounds, there is a general understanding of where things started to go wrong. I want to show them that life can be amazing, there’s so much hope and there’s so much to do. I think that without people like us doing what we do, we would have a lot more people harmed in society. If the right support is in place for an ex-offender, the chances of re-offending are much decreased.
What support do you provide to people?
Georgina: Our roles are really varied; we’re going into prisons for assessments, we’re helping service users with emotional and social issues and supporting them with practical issues. Some of our service users, who have been in custody for a long time, come out and they don’t understand emailing, they’re terrified about how busy the roads are, some of them haven’t made a meal before – trying to rebuild your life is incredibly daunting.
Hilary: We see people daily, it has an impact. And we can follow them through right on to when they leave and have follow-on support – you see their journey.
Georgina: Yes, it’s quite a luxury to find that time with people. In Brighton we have people here for a year. In West Sussex we might have people for about two years. When you’re seeing someone on a daily basis and working with them in that way, you see a really great change in people.
What other challenges do the people you support face?
Hilary: After finding out about the offending, landlords often don’t want people to move in. It’s the same with employers too and as there’s a lack of housing anyway, people find it hard to get housing. To help the service users, we talk to them about when and how to disclose information when they are going for jobs or properties.
Georgina: I think there can be a huge amount of fear, if you’ve come from custody where you have been constantly around people and then into supported housing, the thought of living on your own can be really daunting. We help by networking, in certain areas we have good relationships with private landlords who we can refer people to. We also have a deposit scheme that can help people with saving money.
What outcomes do you want for your service users?
Georgina: The aim for us is that service users move on from us and they have an idea of what a good life can be and they don’t reoffend. I always say to people “I want the same goal as you do, I want to see you settled in your own home, hopefully in some sort of meaningful occupation – be that volunteering or work – and having a meaningful life.”
Hilary: I agree, we use a model called the Good Lives model. It’s about having as good as life as possible considering their circumstances. That would be having good relationships, contributing to society, meaningful use of time and good health, amongst other things. That’s what we want for people Across our services, we usually hit our target of 65% positive move on. We’re really proud of our work.