A zen garden in one of our health and wellbeing rooms. Trauma-informed support can take many forms.


What is trauma-informed support and why do we need it?

We work with around one thousand people impacted by homelessness each year, offering wide-ranging support to help them move on from past experiences and build a new future.

Support like ours only works if it responds meaningfully to the experiences of those who receive it. For us, this raises an important question: how do we respond to the issue of trauma?

Many people staying with us have gone through traumatic experiences either before, during or after being homeless. These experiences can be life-altering.

Exposure to trauma increases the risk of mental health conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, excessive hostility, and generalised anxiety. It can precipitate substance use, physical health problems, and make it difficult to build relationships. It can make people see themselves as fundamentally flawed, perceive the world as pervasively dangerous, and avoid potentially helpful relationships.

Not surprisingly, people with experience of trauma are often reluctant to engage with support services at all. When they do, they may quickly drop out after starting.

Being vigilant and suspicious are often important and understandable self-protective responses to trauma exposure. But, these mechanisms may make it difficult for people to feel the safety and trust necessary to engage with helpful support. To work with people impacted by homelessness, we must understand and navigate this reality.  That is where a trauma-informed approach comes in.

Trauma-informed support uses psychological best practice to build services that work for people who have experienced trauma. It involves incorporating six key considerations into service delivery:

  • Safety: effort should be made to ensure that people know they are physically and emotionally safe, with no prospect of triggering events happening.
  • Trustworthiness & transparency: our processes and ways of working should be explained fully and clearly, along with the reasons behind them.
  • Peer support: when they wish to, people should be able to connect with peers who have been through similar experiences.
  • Collaboration & mutuality: support should be delivered in partnership with those receiving it, with them actively involved in the process.
  • Empowerment, voice & choice: our focus, and how we work, should be decided by customers as much as by staff. All stakeholders should have an equal voice.
  • Cultural, Historical, and Gender Issues: we must proactively identify and address any bias or exclusionary features of our support. For example, by offering access to gender-specific support, and understanding how cultural or religious beliefs may impact engagement.

Together, these pillars of trauma-informed support make it more likely that people will engage with us, and remain engaged. They make our services safer for people, more accessible, and more equal. As a result, people can rightly feel that they have more ownership, and that they hold a position of equal power – they are more a pro-active, engaged peer than a passive ‘service-user’. Ultimately, this approach makes it more likely that they will be able to access what they need, and move on from homelessness for good.

If you would like more information about how our health and wellbeing team works with people who have experienced trauma, click here.

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