“I believe the work Denise has provided to the punters of York has been truly valuable towards people gaining their self-respect back and being there as a listening ear. MEAM gets 5 out of 5 from me. My life has changed; I am no longer kipping in a door way, I am no longer drinking and I am not getting nicked all the time.”
Paul was referred to York MEAM (Making Every Adult Matter), as he had been rough sleeping for over ten years. He describes himself as a chronic alcoholic with a diagnosed personality disorder. He was not engaging with any services, saying that ‘they had never done anything for him’ and has a substantial offending history, primarily for drunk and disorderly and anti-social behaviour.
Developing a relationship with Paul took time and consistency due to lack of trust, I spent many hours each week engaging with him on the street just listening to him and building up an idea of what his needs were and what he was willing to engage with. Paul was in control of his plans at all times and he was not asked to commit to engaging with anything he was not comfortable with. Working with Paul in an entirely person centred way was essential to his engagement.
Paul had never been able to maintain a tenancy in a hostel or service. After several meetings it was agreed that a Housing First model could be adopted to support Paul into permanent accommodation. A plan was put in place with a local hostel and he moved in to start some pre-tenancy work on a one to one basis on the provision that if successful, he could move into his own flat. The move was supported by the provider and the Head of Housing in the City. Despite his anxieties around entering a hostel, Paul has managed well and has developed good relationships with hostel staff, who are very flexible and could have evicted him on multiple occasions. Paul progressed into his own tenancy in July 2016 and is now a secure tenant.
Other parts of the system have shown great flexibility for Paul as well. He had never previously received mental health support. Through working with the Specialist Worker, Paul now has a relationship with his Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) who he sees weekly and initially agreed to see him whilst he was still using. Prior to the York MEAM service involvement, Paul was arrested on a regular basis. Police now report a significant reduction in offending and anti-social behaviour. Since July 2015, he has been arrested on two occasions compared to in 2014/2015 when he was finding himself in police custody 3-4 times each week for anti- social behaviour and breach of ASBO.
Paul has never previously engaged with substance misuse services, despite being alcohol dependant for over twenty years. In July 2015, he was referred to a specialist detox unit. He completed in patient alcohol detox and remains sober although has had a few small relapses he manages to regain control over his drinking and quickly stops.
Paul has also begun to take responsibility for himself. There have been noticeable improvements with self-care, he is attending his GP and dental appointments. Being able to contact his daughter via Facebook has been a big deal to Paul, they now email each other on a regular basis and Paul is proud to share with her the progress he has made. Paul now has plans to get back into fitness, he has talked about wanting to give back to others through mutual aid and would like training in mentoring to enable him to volunteer in the future.
I remain in contact with Paul, although this is now minimal.
*To protect identity, the name of the client in this story has been changed.