The Workforce

Why housing and relationships cannot be separated

Housing and relationships are connected in many ways. Understanding that link can help you provide better support to young people living in different settings.

“Moving disrupts every aspect of your life”:

How many times have you moved in your life? Did any of these go better than others? What made the difference?

It is quite common that people move in their life, and it is also quite widely known that moves are one of the most stressful things a person can go through. This is because it disrupts every aspect of your life, the most intimate aspects of your routine, like where you sleep, the broader things like where you shop as well as your fundamental surrounding of your surroundings. Now it is important to know that young people who have grown up in care usually will have experienced more of those disruptions than most people. They will have experienced changes in school, changes in the distance between them and friends and family as well as changes in their routine. It is a very stressful experience in the best of times and a strongly disorienting in the worst of time. If you think back to the first questions of this guide: what made your moves easier? It probably has something to do with the right kind of support.

“The right kind of support”

Supporting someone into their first home or maintaining their home is a very important process. Enabling a young person to have a stable base, means that you are empowering someone to have stability that radiates into other aspects of their life as well.

To achieve that you need to recognise that there is a difference between following a process and delivering relational support. Following a process is focused on the practical, for example: making sure they have a bed, fixing the appliances. Being relational means that on top of that you also make sure that the first night, they have a warm cup of tea, feel safe and are fed (in no particular order). It means listening to young people and making sure you acknowledge how stressful this experience can be. Because stress does not mean it has to be negative – it can be a memorable move. Of course, moving is not just moving in, but also living there. Being relational means that a young person is supported in orienting themselves in the new area and home. Finding the bus routes to the places they most visit, finding the nearest shop, figuring out where to hang the art and pictures. All these questions might seem small in isolation, but all together can be very overwhelming. Being relational means that you are adapting your practice to fit the needs of the young person.

”Don’t find a house, find a home”

If you are in the position of supporting a young person with their housing, directly or indirectly it is most important to centre the support on them.

Speak and listen to young people to understand what their needs are and how you can support them. You might want to check out the guide on physical spaces which speaks about the assumptions that a physical space can communicate. Sometimes, workers can detach the house from the emotions, they can think about it merely as a roof over a young person’s head. But it is important to not just find houses for young people but to find them a home. Sometimes this means being patient and empathetic over a period of time until the young person truly feels at home.

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