We opened our Overnight Welcome Centre on 1 December 2020. This is a very different service from our night shelter which ran for 10 years. We are sited in a city centre hotel and each guest has their own room with an en-suite shower room. We operate 24 hours a day which is a massive change from just the overnight service we previously provided.
The move to a 24/7 service also meant we had to operate differently to supply three meals a day including a hot evening meal. We have had support from various partners to supply the lunches and our kitchen in Crimea Street has cooked the dinners for the evenings, transferring the food in a hot cabinet to the hotel.
So those are the basics for us to welcome guests in out of the cold when otherwise they would be forced to sleep rough in the worst of the winter weather.
However, it is our aim to go well above the basics as we link our guests in with the relevant agencies, especially the Glasgow Council homelessness services, in an effort to accommodate them. To help us with this work we applied to Homeless Link for Comic Relief funding for a new role, Housing Settlement Officer (HSO). We were delighted to be successful and as a result we now have Lorna McIntosh and Pam Mellstrom job sharing this post.
It suited both Lorna and Pam to do the post part time so that seemed like a good solution for us. It has certainly worked out that way. Lorna and Pam have a passion for their role and a heart for our guests. Now that they’ve been working for three months they are seeing the benefits of sharing the role. They are far more comfortable visiting some our guests as a pair, as Pam said at times they deal with “people with multiple needs”, so from a safety perspective they feel far safer. They also say that they are each other’s Covid checkers as they remind each other to wear masks, keep distances and wash their hands! It also helps when there are two people in the car trying to navigate through areas of Glasgow that aren’t known to them.
So, what does a HSO do? Pam explains, “the core purpose of our job is to support individuals to move into safe and more settled or permanent accommodation that most suits the particular needs of the individual. So for someone with chaotic or complex circumstances a positive housing solution might be some kind of supported accommodation while for others a permanent tenancy is the goal”.
Relationships with the guests are hugely important, gaining trust and following up with each guest as a solution to their issues is addressed. At present there are
82 individuals on their list. Many guests have experienced positive outcomes already, as an example, one guest has expressed his gratitude saying he was used to feeling passed over or forgotten by services but Lorna and Pam’s ongoing calls and texts has made him feel cared for and not forgotten.
Lorna and Pam are also dealing with many people who don’t speak English, which is very isolating. One lady phoned a friend who was able to translate and now she remains in regular contact. They’re also involved with a guest who was very quiet and shy. This guest didn’t understand the jargon being used by other agencies so Lorna and Pam took time to explain it to him and he is now feeling more confident and being more proactive.
Here are some thoughts from another guest who sent a message to Lorna and Pam on the day he moved into his temporary flat: … I ken we only met like twice really but you pushed things along when I wouldn’t and am so grateful for that… right now I’ve never felt so happy…for my flat, the fact someone cared and all the help I had between moves etc… am truly Grateful… inspired really… I’ve never felt so positive about life… and I’ve never been homeless so it was new to me but seeing all the effort… it completely blew my mind.
The Overnight Welcome Centre closes on 31 March, however, Lorna and Pam’s work doesn’t stop. They are contracted until 30 November and they will continue their task of finding the best solutions for our guests.