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Crawley Open House – Riverside House

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					Crawley Open House – Riverside House

The project has provided hostel accommodation and day centres for homeless,
disadvantaged and socially excluded people in Crawley for over thirteen years. The
work has been centred around clients who have serious problems relating to substance
misuse, mental health, self harm, criminal records, domestic violence etc. For a number
of years another charity, STAY, provided hostel and move accommodation for young
men and women 16 and 17 years old and Open House worked with men and women
over 18. The STAY group were closed down over three years ago and there has been
no organisation working with young homeless people with serious substance misuse or
mental health problems since then.

The young people who would have been clients of STAY have since been housed in
unsuitable bed and breakfast accommodation by Crawley Borough Council as there is
not any suitable high support accommodation available in Crawley, in fact there is none
within West Sussex.

After a great deal of discussion Crawley Open House was asked by Crawley Borough
Council, because of their wealth of experience, to develop a project to work with the
younger client group.

Southwell Hostel

The scheme is for young people for whom Foyer type accommodation is not
appropriate. They are young men or women, 16 or 17 years of age, who have serious
problems relating to substance misuse, mental health, offending, self harming, domestic
violence, anger management etc and who need a high level of support.

The Hostel accommodates a maximum of 10 young people in individual fully furnished
rooms and with an additional room for disabled or emergency use. Clients are referred
only from Crawley Borough Council on a planned basis via the Young Persons
Supported Housing Panel, each person will have been accepted as being homeless, in
priority need, vulnerable and suitable to take part in the programme provided at
Southwell Lodge. Each client is involved in setting up their own care plan which includes
deciding on a range of life skills and other groups and educational classes they have to
attend during their period of stay. Most of the clients on reaching 18 will be able to
progress to CBC accommodation (the Project has nomination rights to five properties
per year), Cherchefelle accommodation in West Green, the Foyer or other suitable
permanent or long term accommodation. If clients are prepared to work with the staff
and attend relevant classes etc during their stay they will be able to move into the long
term accommodation that has been accessed for them. An additional option for clients
who move in when nearing their 18th birthday is to transfer to Crawley Open Houses
main project, Riverside House, where their resettlement can be continued.

An emphasis is placed on basic educational classes in a very informal setting in the
“Green” room. Clients are obliged to attend relevant classes for at least 15 hours per
week.. Thomas Bennett Community College (adult education) are providing suitably
experienced tutors for two sessions a week and this can possibly be expanded at a later
date. Other activities are more socially based, such as arts and crafts, music, IT classes
and IT games sessions. Hostel staff run life skills classes and also elements of the
ASDAN educational scheme. Christ’s Hospital School have offered help with the weekly
art class and have made available all of the facilities at their main site for our clients use.
Oxted School have sold us a 16 seat mini bus at a price that we could not refuse. It
means that we are able to take all of the clients out on trips, educational and social.
Other things on offer in the Communal Area are TV, playstation2, Xbox, pool, table
football, snacks, meals and small libraries for books and videos. Clients are also able to
access specialist workers for Mental Health, Substance Misuse, Advice and
Resettlement. Initially these are provided via staff from our main project holding weekly
surgeries or by clients having appointments in the main Project. Clients can also access
our Doctor, Health Visitor, CPN and Counsellors with appointments in our medical
centre at Riverside House.

Full time staff number 10 which allows the minimum number on duty at night to be two
waking staff. Volunteers help run life skills, art and other classes.

Southwell has 10 hostel rooms above the Communal Area. It is equipped with a high
quality internal and external CCTV system. This minimises any serious incidents that
might occur, eliminates most drug dealing and provides a high level of staff security. The
project is enclosed by a 2 metre high socially acceptable fence which adds to the
security. The project is a “damp” one meaning that we operate a zero tolerance policy
on alcohol, non prescription drugs or substances on the project. If however a client
returns to the project after partaking of alcohol or other substances they will not
necessarily be turned away but can be taken in and cared for.

In common with our main project we operate a points system for clients who transgress
the rules. On arrival all residents are given a bank of 100 points, for a minor breach of
rules they lose 5 points, for more serious breaches they lose progressively higher
numbers of points. Clients reaching 0 points can be considered for eviction although in
practise their keyworker would be talking seriously to them long before it reached that
point. There are incentives attached to the scheme in that good behaviour can result in
points being added and rewards being given. The most serious offences such as
violence or dealing would automatically lose a resident 100 points and could result in
eviction.

A management committee reports to the Trustees of Crawley Open House, it is chaired
by the Vice Chair of the Trustees who is also a local councillor. The remainder of the
committee is made up of interested persons and representatives from other agencies
such as CBC, Social Services, Police, Supporting People and YOT. It also has a local
resident on it and a client representative. Open House places a lot of importance on
client involvement and empowerment and weekly client (house) meetings take place.

We work in partnership with other agencies to run and fund the Project.

Crawley Borough Council and.Supporting People are the main funders.
Housing Benefit are paying the bed and breakfast cost for clients
Clients pay an amenity charge to cover the cost of food, heating etc.

A young person is be able to spend up to two years in Southwell from the age of 16 and
during that time they will be able to work towards achieving basic educational and
employment skills. They should gain in confidence and get more out of their life and they
can learn how to contribute to and take a part in the local community. It will hopefully
become an enjoyable period of their lives and help them to avoid some of the more
major pitfalls that could lead them to arrive in our main project in a few years time.

We believe strongly in motivational empowerment for young people but we are of course
realistic enough to recognise that all of the above will not happen for all of our clients,
some will only be able to participate in parts of the programme, some will need to drop
out of the programme and a few will probably not complete it. We will however make
the whole programme available to every one of our clients and actively encourage each
of them to take a full part in it.
Southwell Lodge successfully opened on Monday 23 rd January 2006.

The Project filled up over the first three months and has become a success.

Not every client who moved in has stayed, a few decided that it was not the type of
Project that they could settle into or that they could move forward from. A small number
have been asked to leave for not being prepared to engage with the staff and tutors and
others for seriously breaching the rules. However the young people who have moved
into the Project with the intention of fully participating in all aspects of it are making real
progress.

In July our minibus full of clients and staff travelled for a weeks adventure camp on the
Isle of Wight. For some of the clients it was the first time they had ever been on holiday.

All of the clients received attendance certificates in September for the educational
classes run by the Adult Education Service. A presentation ceremony took place which
was even attended by some proud parents.

Four of the clients started full time courses at Central Sussex College in the autumn
term, something they could never have considered prior to moving into Southwell.

Local police and council officers who knew clients before they moved into Southwell
have commented that they would not have believed that we would have been able to
work so successfully with them.

Southwell has succeeded beyond our expectations although it’s true value may not be
realised until some of the clients have passed 18, been resettled into permanent
accommodation and can prove that their lives have changed with the help of the Project.


2008

Southwell has now been open for two years, there were wagers placed in some quarters
that it would not last a year. To those people surprise, surprise we are still here and the
Project is still getting better.

One young man and one young woman have now moved into their own flats and are
doing extremely well. The young man is engaged. Another young man left to go into live
in work with his partner and they now have a child. Other youngsters have been able to
return home. Another young lady moved to Camilla Botnar a residential employment
scheme.

Of our current ten residents (8 girls and 2 boys) three are on full time courses at Central
Sussex College, one on an Equestrian course at Crabbett Park one at Chichester
College and one on a childcare placement.. The other four undertake lessons within the
Project every week day. These classes are taken by our own staff as Adult Education
are unable to find tutors who are prepared to work with our clients!


Peter Mansfield-Clark
March 2008

				
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