This isn’t a ‘normal’ way for anyone to introduce themselves, imagine listing all the negative things about yourself every time you meet someone new? It is however, all too familiar for people experiencing homelessness. More often than not to be able to access a service or qualify for support an initial needs assessment takes place. Within this, people are asked to disclose, often very personal information to someone they don’t know. Workers carry out assessments with minimal objection; people experiencing these assessments reported feeling exposed, embarrassed, humiliated and re-traumatised. (Mayday Trust).
“Sometimes it’s the people no-one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
– Alan Turing
It’s considered the norm within traditional support services to focus on the negatives in a person’s life with an emphasis on assessment of needs, risks and problems. However, if we define a person by their situation and problems; homeless, addict, offender, we can overlook who they are as a person. If we limit our ability to really get to know a person beyond their label and problems, how can we really see what a person has to offer?
Mayday Trust identify that when we focus solely on the failings of individuals experiencing homelessness, their needs and risks, we keep them in a negative cycle which further deepens their divide from their community.
When we focus on what’s wrong with people and assume a range of problems that need to be exposed and ‘fixed’, we reinforce defeatist, negative attitudes.
So what if we ask different questions? What if we start with strength based conversations? What if we stop asking what’s wrong and start asking what’s strong? In partnership with Mayday, Changing Lives are doing exactly that. We’re taking a different stance within our accommodation services across the North East by introducing a strength based approach to the way we work.
The strengths based approach is exactly what it sounds like. We approach peoples strengths and base the process of transitioning through homeless services around them. We aim to focus on what they’re are good at, what their skills, knowledge and capabilities are and value them as assets which can be used to to achieve positive, sustainable outcomes. Instead of making people recipients of services and try and fix them; we aim to support, empower and encourage resilience and resourcefulness rather than dependency.
It’s not about ignoring areas of risk and need, that remains significant, however, it is about finding a balance between these and the positives. There are of course negative aspects in all of us but these don’t necessarily need to be priority. They are secondary to us using our skills and talents to thrive because once we have established a reason to stop negative behaviours, it becomes a lot easier to give them up!