Lucy was referred in as an 18 year old, with real challenges communicating and behaving within Temporary Accommodation. Lucy's referral came with lots of boxes ticked; mental health, childhood trauma, gang associations, substance abuse. Our first meeting wasn't about any of this - but about who she was, what she wanted us to know, and who she wanted to be.
The approach we took to supporting Lucy was creative and persistent, we never gave up.
At first, Lucy was resistant to engaging in any positive activity and had little interest in anything. When she did join in she could be aggressive and verbally abusive. We noticed this happening as soon as Lucy felt out of her depth, threatened or unsure and worked to reduce those triggers. She was in self-destruct mode and showed no self esteem. She trusted no one.
We had to start from the beginning and build a relationship based on trust and consistency. We looked for the positives in every situation and worked creatively to remove any barriers that Lucy presented to us. We could see that Lucy did want to make positive changes in her life but it was clear she didn’t know how to do that. She was overwhelmed with the experience of youth homelessness and her mental health was suffering as a result.
We would get her out of bed persuade her to do something that day, we asked if she wanted to join an activity session even if she had told us ‘no’ 20 times before. Eventually, she began to engage and then it was clear she had aspirations and the main one being that she wanted to move into her own flat.
This became the goal for everything we did together and having this goal and aspiration meant we were working towards a clear end point. We looked at her as a person and helped with anything we could to gain extra trust, ultimately we showed that we cared in a time when no one else did and many doors had been closed. We were consistent, if we said we were going to do something we would and if we had said we were going to be there we would make sure we were, even on those days when Lucy didn’t want us there. We made sure it was her decision to turn away the support, not ours to withdraw it.
We worked together over a year period and attended weekly arts and design up-cycling session which took place in a restorative environment. We provided the intervention of creativity, but it was so much more than this. Initially Lucy struggled in the sessions, she would walk out, throw down tools and materials in frustration and shout at staff. However, we kept making sure that Lucy could come back every week and over time she began to realise her skills and talent.
She gained self-worth, confidence and the ability to have a calm conversation. It took months to get to this point but continued engagement in a positive activity where she was doing something different enabled her to start thinking differently. We provided continual positive feedback and encouragement, and dealt with anything that was presented to us by Lucy in the session. We would sometimes start with a restorative conversation to deal with any stresses or worries that Lucy came to the session with. We looked at her as a person and the session was about her overall development. Lucy realised that she could do things and over time her behaviour changed as a result of this. Outside of the sessions we supported her to appointments, to engage with drugs and alcohol support, to get mental health support and to make positive decisions.
Lucy got to a place where she was ready to move on and live move independently.
The transition to stop supporting Lucy was over a long period and was clearly set out to her. Her move on support included spending time in her new flat, making dinner, getting used to a new space- a new home.
Lucy has been living independently in her own flat which she now calls ‘home’ for almost 12 months. She has managed her finances and paid her rent whilst in the receipt of universal credit. She is actively engaging with drugs and alcohol support from Mosaic, has completed a short stay in rehab, and is still actively looking to reduce her substance intake. Lucy saw another young person who she was incredibly close to go to prison for her actions and she said that she did not want to go down that path and worked to make sure she didn’t. She has completed part of the Princes Trust programme. She proudly days that “I has made a tenancy work when most young people fail their first tenancy”. She is now in a positive relationship with a partner who is in full time employment. She has improved relationships with family members. Her behaviour has changed completely and she can listen and have a calm and considerate conversation with other individuals, and is respectful to others. She has goals she wants to achieve for the future which include getting a job and learning to drive, and is actively working towards these with her drugs worker.
Most importantly for us, Lucy knows her own strength and has aspirations she believes she can achieve. Her next journey will be into employment!