“You wouldn’t have recognised me before.
I’m a different person now.”
An Evaluation of
Blue Triangle (Glasgow) Housing Association Ltd’s
Housing Support Services
Dr Jennifer Lerpiniere
Blue Triangle (Glasgow) Housing Association Ltd has grown from one service in 1976 to its current provision of thirty services across nine local authorities. The role of these services varies allowing us to provide a person centred support to over four hundred individuals who are either experiencing or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. The types of services and support we offer include dedicated residential services for young people who have been looked after and accommodated; direct access emergency accommodation; accommodation for parents and babies; as well as support to individuals and families who are living independently within their own flats.
This wide range of service provision affords us a very valuable insight into the causes and effects of homelessness. During my time as Chief Executive I have been ever mindful of both the structural and individual reasons which can contribute to homelessness. In the early days of the association we saw how the structural changes to young people’s access to benefits, compounded by a growth in reconstituted families, created an increase in youth homelessness. The influences of individual factors are no less significant with growing instances of alcohol and drug dependency leading to family breakdown and repeated episodes of homelessness. The reasons for homelessness are both complex and diverse and as such we design our services accordingly always hoping to offer holistic joined up affordable accommodation and support.
I believe that central to any service, and arguably the biggest asset of our organisation, are the people who deliver and provide support. It is therefore with pride that I note the responses of the participants involved in the evaluation in describing the importance of our staff in their experience of homelessness. I also welcome the learning that any such evaluation offers and commit the association to translating this learning into ever improving services for our service user group.
Catherine S Campbell
My sincere thanks go to all individuals who participated in this research, many of whom made a great effort to be involved. Some individuals had to arrange child care and travel on two separate buses. Another individual cancelled a day’s outing that he had previously intended to go on. One person spent the best part of a day waiting for me to turn up! Each had different reasons for participating. Some wanted to give something back to the service that had helped them so much. Others saw it as an opportunity to promote awareness of homelessness and the improvement of services for homeless people. In each case I very much appreciate the openness and honesty of participants when they were discussing and reliving the often harrowing experiences associated with being homeless. It is to these individuals that this report is dedicated.
The project managers and staff who helped to set up interviews, some of whom co-ordinated an extremely succinct interviewing timetable, were of tremendous assistance!
Finally, I would like to thank Blue Triangle, in particular, Ian Batt, Mel Cadman, and Patrick MacKay for the opportunity to work on this project.
The term ‘service user’ is adopted throughout this report. It was felt that this term reflects more accurately than ‘resident’ participant’s engagement with Blue Triangle services.
Residential Housing Support Services
‘Residential Housing Support Services’ refer to the residential establishments participants stayed in. For a number of participants these establishments were self-contained flats, within a larger building, which were shared by two or three service users. Other participants lived in large houses which had a number of bedrooms and communal living or kitchen areas.
Cluster accommodation refers to a range of accommodation options that service users can move on to from a core service (such as residential housing support service). Scatter flats are one form of cluster accommodation. Service users move into these flats prior to gaining their own tenancy or accommodation as a means of further developing independent living skills whilst continuing to receive support from Blue Triangle’s floating support service.
‘Junky’ (or ‘Junkies’) is a slang term used negatively to refer to a person who has significant drug related problems, including, for example, excessive drug use (particularly heroin), criminal activity and anti-social behaviour.
Sofa surfing is a term often used by homeless people to mean living, for relatively short periods of time, with friends’ and relatives and having no stable base.
Foreword / 2
Acknowledgements / 3
Glossary / 4
Introduction / 6
Research Aims / 7
Method / 8
The Participants / 8
Individual Interviews / 9
Interview Analysis / 10
Rating Scales / 10
Experiencing Homelessness / 11
Becoming Homeless / 11
Experiences of Blue Triangle Accommodation / 14
Quality of Current Lifestyle / 29
Key Themes and Discussion / 34
Future Developments / 43
Conclusion / 45
References / 45
Blue Triangle (Glasgow) Housing Association Ltd. has provided services to homeless people across Scotland since 1975. Originally set up as a service to support young women who had left home and were being accommodated in Glasgow, the Association now supports men and women of all ages (including those over 50) who are experiencing social exclusion. Blue Triangle works in partnership with nine local authorities towards achieving independent living for homeless people. Services offered to homeless people include 25 residential housing support services; one to one counselling; floating community support work; health education; and services to promote employment opportunities. These services provide opportunities for homeless people to develop confidence, skills and a sense of self worth. Development of skills and confidence is necessary for homeless people to achieve independent living, for example, to manage their own tenancies, to engage with the community and take advantage of employment or education opportunities.
We work with homeless people and those threatened by homelessness, providing person centred support and quality accommodation. (Blue Triangle Mission Statement, Annual Report 2008)
Blue Triangle’s approach fits with the philosophy of the ‘staircase model’ which views independent living as an ability which can be learnt. As homeless people develop skills they move to accommodation which allows them the opportunity to test and consolidate skills until they are finally able to maintain their own tenancy (Christian and Armitage, 2002).
There are many accounts of difficulties which are associated with homelessness, for example, high rates of physical and mental health problems (e.g. Lewis, Andersen and Gelberg, 2003), substance misuse problems (e.g. Johnson and Chamberlain, 2008) and relationship difficulties (e.g. Andersen and Rayens, 2004). It is also known that a range of life circumstances are often associated with homelessness. These include sudden changes in financial circumstances (e.g. inability to pay rent, inheritance of a mortgage in middle or old age); neighbour’s reports of poor social behaviour; and living alone after the traumatic loss of a partner or family member (Crane and Warnes, 2000). For young people, involvement with social care institutions, such as residential child care, and social work services are often associated with homelessness (Nichols, 2008). Similarly it has been shown that many homeless people experience homelessness more than once during their lives (Crane and Warnes, 2000).
Homeless people facing these and other difficulties require support to achieve independent living. Support should provide a means for individuals to develop a range of abilities that will typically enable them to: deal with personal problems (e.g. developing coping strategies); sustain a housing tenancy or other accommodation (e.g. learn to manage bills and maintain a property); manage their daily activities (e.g. budgeting, reading letters); secure employment or training (e.g. interview skills, qualifications); develop relationships with family and friends (e.g. anger management); and be included in the local community and leisure activities (e.g. by making friends, joining groups). It is not the case however that all people who are homeless will have to develop all these skills since many already possess a repertoire of independent living skills (Osborne, 2002). It should also be noted that the ability to live independently does not necessarily mean living without any form of support but it does mean that individuals should have knowledge and skills that enable them to, at any point, access the support they need.
Six core objectives underpin Blue Triangle’s work to overcome these types of problems and promote independent living skills:
· Offering a safe and secure environment to service users
· Providing a quality service compatible with service users’ needs
· Maximising opportunities for service users to develop skills and build self-esteem
· Regularly monitoring service users’ development
· Assessing, planning and providing support to maintain appropriate follow on accommodation for each service user
· Addressing wider social needs to promote inclusion in society
The purpose of the research was to develop an understanding of the contribution made by Blue Triangle’s residential housing support services towards helping services users overcome problems and lead an independent life.
The aims of the research were to:
· Generate accounts of (ex) service users’ experiences of Blue Triangle residential housing support services
· Ascertain whether service users felt Blue Triangle had contributed to their personal development and independent living skills
· Identify key factors that contributed to the development of independent living skills
· Provide recommendations about developing Blue Triangle residential housing support services
Managers of six Blue Triangle residential housing support services were asked to identify and contact ex-service users who had used their service between 3 and 18 months earlier. A limit of 18 months since leaving the project was set in order to maximise the likelihood that participants could accurately recall their experiences of Blue Triangle accommodation services. It was intended that a range of service users were involved in the study, including those who had moved on to independent living accommodation as well as those who continued to receive significant support from other housing and support services. Participants who responded positively to requests to be involved in the research however were largely those who were living independently or waiting to move in to their own accommodation. These participants were considered to be among the successful individuals who had used Blue Triangle accommodation services. Time constraints prevented prolonged attempts to include ex-service users who continued to receive significant support.
A total of 11 participants were recruited from five of the six Blue Triangle accommodation projects. One individual from the sixth project could not be reached during the interview period. Four of these projects were based in one local authority (9 participants) and one was based in a second local authority (2 participants). At the outset of the research it was intended that services and participants would be more evenly spread across the two local authorities. Difficulties in contacting individuals within the timeframe prevented this.
Blue Triangle’s typical client group is predominantly male young people under the age of 25. The gender and age of participants involved in the research reflected this client group. Seven participants were male and four were female. Three female participants and one male participant were single parents and one participant was pregnant at the time of the research. Seven were under 25 years, three were between 26 and 39 years and one participant was over 60 years old. See Table 1.
Seven of the participants had stayed at Blue Triangle accommodation between 10 and 12 months, three had stayed between 3 and 9 months, and one participant had stayed for 3 weeks. At the time of the study six participants were in their own accommodation and three were living either with family or in scatter flat accommodation until their own accommodation was ready in the very near future. Two individuals were living in hostel accommodation and although they wished to move on had no plans in place to move out at that point in time. They continued to receive significant support from housing services.
Table 1. Age of ParticipantsAge / No. of Participants
20-24 yrs / 7
25-29 yrs / 1
30-34 yrs / 1
35-39 yrs / 1
60+ yrs / 1
Research has shown that the main themes of an interview analysis occur within 12 interviews and sometimes as early as six interviews (Guest, Bunce and Johnson, 2006). The method Guest et al (2006) used to determine this number of interviews is ‘saturation’. Glaser and Strauss (1967) introduced the concept of saturation as the point at which data collection, by interview methods, should cease. Saturation occurs when ‘no additional data are being found … and the researcher sees similar instances over and over again’ (p61). Based on the work of Glaser and Strauss (1967) and Guest et al (2006), it was proposed that between 10 and 12 participants would be involved in the research.
The 11 participants who were involved in the research participated in an interview about their experience of Blue Triangle’s residential housing support services. They each met an independent researcher at the residential housing support service where they had previously stayed. Nine of the participants met individually with the researcher and two participants spoke together. They were friends and did not mind discussing their experiences with one another. Interviews took place in a private room and lasted between 20 minutes and one hour. Participants were offered a £20 voucher (which one individual chose not to accept) for their time and involvement in the project.
Individuals were asked to talk about three main areas:
· their experiences of living at Blue Triangle residential housing support accommodation (including relationships with staff and other service users, support for problems or issues, opportunities for skills development, preparing to leave);
· circumstances which led them to become homeless (if they felt able to talk about it);
· their lives since leaving Blue Triangle residential housing support accommodation (including the suitability of current accommodation; opportunities for employment, training or further education; relationships with family and friends; and social and leisure activities).