Digbeth-based accommodation project, Tabor House, has welcomed a new Outreach Worker to the team to help more of the city’s rough sleepers off the streets. Joining from national charity, Shelter, Derek Clarke has already supported over 30 of the city’s homeless community since taking up the role.
This brand-new position at Tabor House, which is run by iShelter in partnership with Father Hudson’s Care, sees Derek building relationships with people who are homeless and at risk of homelessness across Birmingham.
Through daily visits to those rough sleeping and in temporary accommodation, his role is to identify their priority needs and help them get the support required. From substance misuse through to accessing Universal Credit, he describes it as helping to “untangle a web” of needs and get them on to the next stage of their journey.
“Having been on the streets myself for six years, I know how hard it is to start paving a way to a new life. I was really entrenched at one stage and struggled with addiction, so it was a long road for me. I understand what these guys have ahead of them, so being able to build a relationship, start improving their self-worth and get them what they need is crucial,” Derek says.
As well as working closely with charities and organisations providing vital support, Derek also refers people directly into Tabor House, which houses up to eight guests at any one time. Following an initial assessment, guests are provided with their own self-contained pod, daily meals and essential supplies, as well as a mentor who works with them one-on-one to help them secure employment, housing and benefits support.
Since opening, Tabor House’s signature strength-based mentoring approach has supported over 100 people, half of which have moved into employment and permanent accommodation. The project, which originally opened as Birmingham’s only permanent night shelter in 2017, adapted during the global pandemic to become a 24-hour accommodation provider. In addition to transforming its open plan living area into Perspex ‘pods’ and introducing a wave of new Covid-compliant measures.
Derek’s role at Tabor House has been funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority for nine months, funded beyond that by the charity itself, and is key to seeing a reduction in numbers on the streets.
“Having worked for Shelter and, prior to that, CGL (Change Grow Live) I have seen the impact that can be made when you approach rough sleepers in the right way. I never would have come off the streets had it not been for someone like me who saw the good in me and knew that I deserved more. At that time, I didn’t feel that way and my confidence was so low. I could read but not write, and had I not received hands on support, I wouldn’t have changed my life.
I think that having ‘lived experience’ with an organisation is the key to really helping people. I understand what that lifestyle is like, I know the chaos and I know how low you can get, so I’m able to connect on that level and start working with them to move things in the right direction. That’s what I love; being out there and going through the journey with someone, especially getting someone really entrenched into a place to live. Once that happens, things start falling into place,” Derek continues.
Funding from The Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust earlier this year also helped iShelter acquire a new project, Caretaker’s House, which will provide a move-on facility for Tabor House guests. As they progress through their mentoring programme, when they are ready to do so, they will be able to move into this fully refurbished three-bedroom house.
Sharon Fear, Project Manager at Tabor House, adds:
“Although he’s only recently joined us, we can already see the incredible impact that Derek is having. As well as referring new people into Tabor House, he’s helping even more of the homeless community by getting them additional help they need too.
Having Caretaker’s House is a big move for us, as we now have a facility that can house people who have been with us for a number of months, secured employment and are ready for their next steps. The work we’re doing is so crucial, especially at this time of year, and as we see more people ending up on the streets as a result of the economic pressure of the pandemic.” iShelter, with Father Hudson’s Care, is funded by contributions from trusts, foundations, sponsored events, and donations from organisations and individuals. The charity receives little Government funding and relies heavily on the kindness of others. To find out more about iShelter, its work through Tabor House and Caretaker’s House, and to support visit www.ishelter.org.uk.