WaveLength works with homelessness centres across the country. We recently visited two homes in London run by St Mungos (www.mungos.org).
Julie showed us around the Harrow Road Centre, opened in 1989 in a converted office block. This first-stage hostel is home for 41 residents aged over 50, rough sleepers referred by outreach workers, or those with enduring mental health problems. Some have come from other hostels where the different needs of the younger residents have increased their vulnerability. Many have been on the streets for over 20 years.
“Loneliness is a huge problem”
Many residents, with already poor coping strategies, have lost partners of 40 years or lost their homes when their parents passed away. Loneliness is a huge problem with every client group, from the youngest to the oldest. Residents lack self-esteem and confidence.
“It is scary how self-isolating they are,” says Julie.
The team at Mungo’s addresses this; they do not just provide a home for their residents, they also bring in activities and organise trips out so the residents can engage with other environments, and arrange training so clients can move on. There have been many successes including an ex-service user “who everyone had given up on” helped by St Mungo’s into an apprenticeship, now healthy and with a future.
Some, however, cannot bring themselves to leave the safety of their room within the hostel and for these clients the TV provides a lifeline, an engagement with an outside world that cannot harm them.
We spoke to one resident, Michael, who had been sleeping rough before moving to Harrow Road 4 months previously. He rarely leaves his room except to make a cup of tea or go for a solitary walk along the canal. Having been given a Wavelength TV he enjoys watching the History Channel, with the World at War a great favourite; he is not so keen on the soaps – particularly the Yorkshire accents in Coronation Street.
There is no such thing as “The Homeless”
Every client at Harrow Road is different and is treated with dignity and hope. Five members of staff, including the Deputy Manager have been service users. Each has their own recovery and each brings something extra to the team.
We were also able to visit a St Mungos Registered Care Home caring for a very vulnerable client group, one of only 3 or 4 specialist care homes in London who work specifically with those with long-term alcohol dependency issues. Many of the clients have a history of rough sleeping. In many cases their accommodation has completely broken down when drug users or prostitutes have taken over the building and forced them on to the street. With no contact with family or friends, these vulnerable people are truly isolated until they find a home with Chichester Road.
Chichester Road becomes home to the residents for as long as they want it or have to move on to more specialist care.
Mick, the Manager, tells us “We don’t know what has been going on in the background… sometimes people have just been completely abandoned. Everyone who comes to the home is in crisis.”
A phone call home after 47 years
“The staff are the only people close to our resident and then they start talking about their families and wanting to make contact,” says Mick.
St Mungos facilitated a phone call for a resident who had not spoken to his sister in 47 years and then they were talking on the phone “as if they were talking yesterday”
Comfort and dignity
The staff help the client’s manage their vulnerabilities – accidents are reduced with fewer hospital stays, clients are being fed so are not so emaciated, they are no longer being abused financially. Their dignity is maintained.
Outings and activities help with engagement and cognitive improvement, but some residents cognitively cannot engage in a group activity and for them the TVs are a lifeline. Many need the comfort of their rooms, to have their own environment and make their own choices. TVs bring in the outside world and help engagement within the community of the home.
Main photo: Des, a St Mungo’s resident, was given a new WaveLength TV to bring him contact and engagement with the outside world