Fulfilling Lives South East is part of a national Big Lottery funded project, based in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings, run under the umbrella of Brighton Housing Trust. They help people with multiple complex needs, (MCN), which includes any two of these needs: homelessness, mental health issues, re-offending and drug and alcohol misuse.
Workers provide support on different levels and aim to battle homelessness with lasting change. As a BHT Brighton volunteer, and fairly new to this role, I met one of their project consultants on one of the courses I was on, and asked would it be possible to gate-crash one of their meetings to see what they are all about.
A week later my co-ordinator and I found ourselves in Eastbourne doing just that.
Their team were already into their weekly Action Group meeting, some employees and some volunteers. They were enthusiastically busy action planning, we sat at the back and listened in.
The point they were discussing was the gaps and barriers that occur when clients miss appointments with substance misuse services. One of the roles of the project is to research issues through lived experience and user voice. The team were putting together questions to be asked such as why do clients miss appointments, and how could it be avoided, how could services be improved? Was there any follow up? If handled head on it could prevent staff time, avoid longer waiting time for others and save costs.
Later on we were told how the project had produced a homeless map for Eastbourne in partnership with related organisations, which they have distributed to all the homeless services throughout the city. The map is a complete guide for homeless and people with other needs to find anything from shelter, food banks, and health centres etc.
They also talked about the Special Patient’s Scheme, which is operated at A&E and various GP surgeries. After quite a lot of research the team found out how the scheme was run, and in particular were keen to see how often patients’ behaviour was reviewed: the scheme ensures that patients with a history of violent behaviour will be treated differently – ensuring security staff will be present when they see their doctor. It seemed unfair if people were still registered on the scheme as violent when they no longer posed a risk.
After the meeting I managed to grab a few words with two of their volunteers.
J. A volunteer for 3 months told me of how, some time ago, she found herself homeless. After sofa-surfing for some time, she held down 3 jobs and eventually the tide turned and she is currently buying her own house.
M. has been volunteering for 18 months. Battling ill health and home issues she also managed to turn things around. She put her daughter through university and her son is doing his GCSE’s.
These people are proof that things do get better. They offer their free time for something they feel passionate about and should be congratulated for that.
Fulfilling Lives is offering a meaningful way and succeeding in fighting against homelessness and people who have lost their way and feel they have been forgotten about. They provide an excellent service and will continue to do so. I am happy I was allowed to listen about the remarkable work they do.