Throughout May we will be exploring loneliness among men. More than one in three men in the UK struggle with loneliness, which can lead to depression, isolation and health issues. In this week’s blog St Anne’s Hostel tells us about how family breakdown and poverty put men at risk of homelessness, and about the loneliness that this can cause them.
Why do people become homeless in the first place?
People become homeless for a range of different reason. Many of the men we work with have become homeless due to circumstances beyond their control. Some were affected by the “bedroom tax” and due to there being no alternative home for them they have been stuck in accommodation they have suddenly been unable to afford. They have ended up with huge debts and have been evicted from their homes. Some of the men were renting from private landlords who decided to sell the property or increase the rent to such high levels that the men were unable to pay it. The private rental market has no regulations imposed on the limits charged so often the men could not afford the monthly rent, let alone the excessive deposits and estate agents fees imposed. Some have been forced out of their homes due to a relationship breakdown. As men are not seen as a priority they are often automatically placed in a hostel, which means they also lose the ability to have their children stay overnight. Some have come out of prison and have had nowhere to go so are placed in a hostel such as ours. While St Anne’s is friendly and welcoming a lot of the men can feel isolated when they first arrive here as they have lost their home and have often been moved out of their local area. They are away from their friends and family and, like all hostels, cannot have visitors stay overnight. This can make them feel lonely.
What happens when homeless men come to St Anne’s Hostel?
To help the men when they arrive and for the duration of their stay we have key workers, resettlement workers, a 24 hour concierge and an Activities Coordinator all of who are here to offer support. Most of the men are keen to move on as quickly as possible so our resettlement worker makes sure they are registered on the right systems to apply for housing and have all the necessary things in place such as funds and references. Those who have more complex needs are allocated key worker who work with them and other outside agencies to make sure their needs are addressed. The Activities Coordinator provides a range of different activities, courses and sports activities in-house, and offers support with gaining access to free external courses, applying for jobs and getting volunteering opportunities. Most of the men are unable to work while they live at the hostel so there can be a lot of time to fill each day. For some this can lead to them feeling alone so we try to make each day as busy as possible.
How does technology help?
We are one of the only hostels in the area who accept men with dogs and due to the lack of dog-friendly hostels in other parts of the country we have frequently had people relocate from Milton Keynes, London and Essex. This means they have been removed from their support network so access to Facebook, email and video calling is essential for them to maintain contact with friends and family. The Activities Coordinator opens the resource room, providing access to the necessary equipment for them to stay in touch, apply for jobs, housing and voluntary positions. Access to a computer is vital for these men as it helps reduce their isolation, but also offers them the opportunity to move on with their lives quicker. We also have TVs in the common rooms which allow the men to watch their favourite programs and stay up to date with news and sports. We find that keeping the men mentally stimulated is essential to maintaining their quality of life and to do that technology is essential.