Total: £0.00

picture of telephone  click icon for access to housing law in practice reference manual for membersMailing ListTwitterFacebook  YouTube

When everyone has a home

028 9024 5640: Housing & Debt Helpline for Northern Ireland

Beyond the gate: helping vulnerable adults transition into independent living

Our Beyond the Gate project aims to prevent homelessness amongst people leaving prison by ensuring that they have all the necessary support to aid their transition back into independent living.  Caoimhe, a support worker with Beyond the Gate discusses a recent success story.  The client’s name has been changed.

Client referred by prison based housing adviser

Ryan is 33 years old.  He suffers from alcoholism and mental health issues.  Over the past 5 years he has been in and out of prison regularly.  Ryan has no family and generally only manages a few days at a time on the outside before ending up back in prison.   Most recently, he was in Maghaberry prison.  The Housing Rights adviser based in this prison met with Ryan and liaised with the Housing Executive on his behalf.  He was offered a social tenancy and was told he could sign his tenancy agreement and collect the keys on the day of his release.  The Housing Rights adviser referred Ryan’s case to me as she believed he would need some support from Beyond the Gate if he was going to sustain this new tenancy.

Meeting the Beyond the Gate adviser

I met Ryan in Maghaberry a few days before his release.  We had a chat and agreed that I would meet him at the prison gate on the morning of his release and take him to the Housing Executive office where he would collect the keys for his new place.   I met him, as planned, at the prison gates and we drove down to sort out the paperwork for his new tenancy.  I had also made a number of appointments for Ryan; we went to the social security office to sort out his benefits and went to see Ryan’s GP so he could get a prescription for the medication he needed to treat his illnesses.

Helping Ryan to settle into his new home

When we arrived at the flat we couldn’t get in as the metal shuttering had been left on.  I rang the Housing Executive and they sent someone out immediately to remove these.   The flat, like all social tenancies, was unfurnished and once we got inside Ryan mentioned that he didn’t have any furniture in storage or elsewhere that he could use.  It turned out that he had no other belongings except the bag of possessions he had been released with.  Luckily, I was able to get him a brilliant starter pack from Council for the Homeless.  This pack contained a microwave, toaster, kettle, quilt and pillow and gave Ryan the basics that he’d need to make a start in his new home.  One of my colleagues on the Beyond the Gate project managed to find a blow up mattress that Ryan could use as a temporary measure until he had enough money to buy his own bed and mattress.

Since moving in, Ryan’s been given a number of other items through the goodwill of others.  He now has a sofa, bed, mattress, washing machine and a fridge.  He’s been really invested in sorting out his flat and the fact that he has managed to furnish and decorate it is a source of great pride for him. 

Engaging proper support to sustain tenancies

I referred Ryan to HomeCare’s floating support service, and I’m optimistic that the case will soon be passed over to HomeCare completely.  I’ve managed to get Ryan referred to a counselling service for his alcohol addiction and he has engaged with mental health services.  I’m confident that with all this support in place Ryan will be able to make a new start on the outside and stay out of prison.  He’s now been out for 3 months, the longest time he’s spent out of prison since his problems began. 

Referrals to Beyond the Gate

Relevant agencies who work with prisoners in custody or in the community can refer clients who have particularly complex needs to the service.  The project is aimed at those prisoners who are likely to have difficulties sustaining a tenancy when they leave prison without extra support. 

Once they receive a client’s details, Beyond the Gate staff will begin to identify the type of support each individual will need once released.  The adviser will ensure that this support is in place and that all involved services are aware of each other and offer a joined-up approach to the client’s needs.  

The success of this project very much depends on effective partnership working between various agencies in the statutory and voluntary sectors.    We have developed links with relevant agencies across Northern Ireland and hope to get key contacts at these agencies on board with the initiative.

If you’d like to find out more about the project or how your agency can access this service, contact Peter McMahon at Housing Rights.

Tagged In

Minority Groups, Homelessness

This article was written on 26 August 2015. It should not be relied on as a statement of the current law or policy position. For help with housing issues please contact our helpline on 028 9024 5640 or use our online chat service at www.housingadviceNI.org.