What does it mean to you?
When we think of the issues facing those who experience homelessness the only solution can seem like the obvious one – more houses. If this is the solution, why does chronic homelessness exist? Surely if we just housed everyone that would solve the issue.
On Wednesday the 18th of October Homeless Connect facilitated a consultation at the Westcourt Centre. There were representatives with lived experience, members of the Housing Executive and Homeless Connect present.
Before the consultation started, we took a minute to reflect on the word home and what it means to each of us. These were some of the responses:
*There are restrictions in temporary accommodation. Times and rules for hostels and limited rights in single lets
Love, warmth, security and belonging are strong contenders.
A home can feel empty. It can be tough moving from temporary accommodation – where there may be support in place and people to talk to – to living alone. Managing a household, paying bills and talking to different agencies (e.g.: the Housing Executive), can be overwhelming in those early days. It does not take much to knock an individuals’ confidence at this stage.
The physical building is just that – physical. The ‘home’ as a concept must extend beyond the place we reside. It is part of a person’s identity. Your home is an extension of who you are. When an individual loses their home against their wishes, they lose part of who they are. Stigma, how they are treated and spoken to by others, begins to weigh heavily.
They are suddenly part of the ‘other’ and can enter a world of shame and fear. In this situation, a person only has limited choices and resources open to them. Regardless of how they came to face this situation, they can be left feeling that its somehow their fault they lost their home. Bad decisions have led to this. Wrong life choices. There exists a mentality of ‘you will take what you are given’ regardless of whether it is the best outcome available.
Couple this with ill mental health and substance dependency and it leaves very little room for any confidence, advocacy or self-efficacy. The individual begins to believe it is their fault. This can lead to a negative ripple effect. Once you believe you are a ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ type of person it is easier to turn your back on values that have been guiding you.
So how can we change this?
How can we turn that negative ripple effect in to a positive one?
Losing a home is traumatic. Over time and with the right support this trauma can be identified and addressed. Even after a tenancy is agreed, the journey out of the experience of homelessness can be difficult to navigate. Support, family, friends, community and positive networking are key to a successful, sustained tenancy and lifestyle. Changing identities, re-entering society. Having a home to call your own. Feeling worthy of love and compassion at last. With the right help and support, a period of post traumatic growth occurs, and that negative ripple effect can turn positive.
When we look at issues facing those who experience homelessness, it is evident that a home is so much more than a house. It’s the community in which you live, relationships with loved ones, your support network. A home can have love, safety, security. Its complex and subjective. It is multifaceted. The solution cannot, therefore, be linear in its approach.
If we change how we look at the issues, we can find the right solutions – Let’s begin to turn the tide.
Nikki McConville is the Lived Experience Co-ordinator at Homeless Connect. To find out more about our lived experience work, see our page here.