Bereavement Support for the Homeless in Oxford
Oxfordshire Cruse is actively working with the homeless in the city of Oxford.
Inspired by a talk given at the Cruse national Conference two years ago about work with the homeless in London, our branch decided to start a project working with the homeless in Oxford. After making initial contact with the hostels and organisations that work with the homeless, and fund-raising from Oxfordshire Community Foundation and Oxford City Council, we started the project about a year ago, in May 2015.
The project initially began working in two hostels - O'Hanlan House and Lucy Faithfull House - and in Julian Housing, an organisation helping people who have made the move from the hostels into supported accommodation in Oxford. Two volunteers started going into each hostel and one to Julian Housing. During this first year of the project, Lucy Faithfull House has closed down, following severe cuts in funding, and two volunteers have left the project. Currently we have two volunteers going into O'Hanlan House on a weekly basis, and one going to Julian Housing.
We have learnt a great deal over the past year. Most people who are homeless or who have been homeless have a great deal of loss in their lives. They've lost their homes, jobs, families, and, probably most crucially, their self-respect. So we decided that talking about 'loss' in general was acceptable in this project, with bereavement just one of those losses. The setting in the hostels has been much more informal than the way we normally work with clients. Our volunteers sit in the communal space and engage people in conversation. Sometimes these conversations lead to more confidential one-to-one sessions away from the communal space. In Julian Housing, staff make referrals to the Cruse volunteer and clients come in for appointments at fixed times - more like our usual client one-to-one service.
With the closure of Lucy Faithfull House, and relatively low uptake in Julian Housing, we are thinking of offering this service to other organisations in Oxford working with the homeless. We are also starting on a programme of training courses for staff in the hostels, to help them understand the effects of bereavement for their residents.