Mike was referred to the project in September 2014 having been sofa surfing with friends following the breakdown of his tenancy in the private rented sector. He had been evicted illegally from his property which, as a consequence, impacted negatively on his mental health and his feelings of anxiety and depression became more problematic for him as he was not linked in to local community mental health services or getting support from his G.P.
Mike has a history of substance misuse issues (alcohol and cannabis use) and while serving a short prison sentence had started to use “Spice” (synthetic cannabinoid) which he had become dependent on.
At his interview for BHT’s Phase One Project, he was incredibly insightful as to what he felt he needed from the service with regards to support, and he was keen to focus on working through his dependency issues, establish links to community projects (as he is a keen artist and gardener) and work towards meeting the criteria for getting rehoused as he recently has had experience of managing a tenancy.
At the beginning of his stay at the Phase One Project we were notified by Housing Benefit that he had an overpayment for which he was liable from his previous tenancy. Once Mike had explained to us how his rent had been collected, it became clear that he had been taken advantage of by his former landlord due to his levels of vulnerability.
Mike’s support worker began the process of getting legal advice so that the overpayment decision could be appealed which, if successful, would mean that he would have a much better chance of being able to financially manage a tenancy when he was ready to be referred to more independent accommodation.
While this process was being undertaken Mike, with the support of his support worker, started to look at local services that could support him in get treatment for his synthetic cannabinoid dependency issue, support him with his feelings of anxiety and depression and provide him with the opportunity to use his skills as an artist and gardener. By being more meaningfully occupied he was working towards meeting the criteria for housing.
He made steady progress during the first six months of his stay and started courses at the Brighton Unemployed Centre to improve his feelings of self-worth and to broaden his network of support outside of the project.
He was also referred to the substance misuse service to get specialist support with his addiction. Mike and his support worker worked closely with his GP around his long term mental health issues to ensure that appropriate support was in place for him so that he would be better able to manage his feelings of anxiety and depression, and be medicated appropriately.
Over the following six months Mike’s confidence grew and he continued to broaden his social network by becoming involved with a local church and volunteering there on a regular basis. He also managed to secure a small plot on a local allotment which enabled him to use his skills as a gardener to prepare the plot for growing fruit and vegetables, further raising his sense of well-being.
In November he enrolled on an art course which started in January, and he also joined a local orchestra – he had been learning to play the clarinet and was keen to join a group so that he could further develop this new skill.
During this period Mike was notified that his appeal regarding his housing benefit overpayment was successful which meant that he was now in a position to be able to afford to manage an independent tenancy again. With these additional activities in place and his housing benefit overpayment resolved he was nominated for a long term tenancy within BHT.
Mike moved into his new home at the end of January.
Mike’s story is not untypical of the work undertaken regularly at the Phase One Project, dealing with a number of issues that had previously impacted negatively on each other. By a methodical approach, Mike’s issues were addressed and he has gained greater independence and makes few demands on on services he previously depended on.