Homes for Cathy recently interviewed Zaza Phoenix, one of BCHA‘s new Meaningful Occupation Coordinators, to find out more about her role supporting formerly homeless people to achieve their aspirations through meaningful activities. Here Zaza shares how the role came about and how this type of support can help people move their lives forward after experiencing rough sleeping, addiction and trauma.
How did the role of Meaningful Occupation Coordinator come about?
The role came about following BCHA’s success partnering with local authorities in Bournemouth, Dorset, Exeter and Plymouth, in bidding for the Government’s ‘Next Step Accommodation Programme’ (NSAP) funding. The NSAP Project was created to temporarily house rough sleepers in response to the Covid 19 pandemic.
BCHA has worked together with our planning, asset and tenancy sustainment colleagues to deliver an ambitious supported and move on accommodation project. Our success with the NSAP programme reflects the strong and credible relationships we have established with local authorities and partners. It’s a great example of how we have worked together in supporting homelessness strategies and our commitment to providing good quality housing solutions to people who would otherwise be homeless.
This role is a culture fit to BCHA’s existing Ignite programme, an area of expertise for BCHA, which has been successfully delivering employability skills for over ten years. Our Ignite employability and skills programme focuses on supporting people to find greater self-belief, break free from benefit support, get back in to work, and live life. Delivered in partnership with Skills & Learning BCP, Ignite offers a range of workshops for people to choose from, which are all tailored to build someone’s self-esteem and confidence, and to support people to achieve their goals.
What does your role entail?
The Meaningful Occupation Coordinators work closely with a small group of individuals in an accommodation setting, who are seeking to return to learning or work after moving out of homelessness. Our approach is to provide intensive 1:1 practical support to bring out a client’s aspirations, strengths and abilities through meaningful occupation activities. The role focuses on the following areas:
- Empowering individuals to make choices and to be in control of their own lives
- Genuine future planning drawing on hopes, strengths, aspirations and goals
- Nurturing meaningful and positive relationships based on trust
- Mindfully promoting physical health and mental wellbeing
- Keeping people safe and building long term resilience
- Connection to digital and in person communities and networks
What particular challenges do your clients face and how do meaningful activities help them move forward?
We work with individuals with complex lives facing challenges such as homelessness, rough sleeping, addiction and trauma to make positive changes.
Meaningful activities will give clients tools, skills, and knowledge to make lasting positive changes to enhance their life. Clients will have a person centred programme developed using the Outcomes Star as a foundation tool, to look at each person’s journey, choices, and goals, as they may be different. An overriding aim is to support people to increase their self-esteem, confidence, motivation, and wellbeing through a Housing First model, utilising a trauma informed approach within a psychologically informed environment.
Are there any particular obstacles you have encountered in the role and how have you been able to overcome them?
The particular obstacles we have encountered are:
- Unaffordability – those who would benefit most from the service of Meaningful Occupation cannot actually afford the tenancy, while those who can afford the tenancy are less willing to engage due to the detrimental affect employment may have on their benefit income.
- COVID and BREXIT have continually delayed properties being ready on time, due to supplies etc.
- COVID has also presented obstacles in engaging with residents safely, however the necessary PPE has been provided to support this.
We are remaining flexible around these obstacles and addressing them as/if they arise using reflective practice.
Do you have any tips or advice for other housing associations or charities looking to introduce a similar role/scheme?
The best tips we can offer are:
- Network. Knowing where your providers are and build strong relationships within the community to create a positive reputation for yourself and the service you are providing. When the MOC comes to discuss the goals and aspirations of each client they will have a wealth of knowledge about service provision and available opportunities, and also have pre-established links with the community providers.
- Mutual, experiential, intensive support. Signposting does not work for much of our client group – get in touch with the workshop / class / course / volunteering provider and ask what the criteria of attendance is (be informed about what you are recommending from a position of experience rather than blind signposting). Then attend the session alongside your client, not merely in a supportive role. Lead by example.
- Make sure what you do is based in a framework of evidence. We champion the 5 stages of wellness (NEF, 2008) with everything we do with our clients. Being evidence based and championed by the NHS, it provides continuity and a framework of what we are working towards. Use reflective practice to reinforce the positive experience.
BCHA is a charitable housing association based in Bournemouth, operating across the South West of England. For more information, visit http://www.bcha.org.uk.