Four in every five homeless people suffer from a mental health problem. Yet all too often, homeless people slip through the gaps in mental health services. If left untreated, poor mental health – often stemming from experiences such as childhood or adult trauma, family breakdown or bereavement – can result in a vicious cycle, condemning vulnerable people to a life on the streets.  

We work with people with a wide range of mental health challenges and support needs across all our services. While our 'high support' accommodation services work intensively with people who have received a diagnosis of psychosis, schizophrenia or personality disorder, many other SHP services also work with people to improve their mental wellbeing as part of their recovery. 

Whatever their level of need, we work with people to understand what their mental health means to them We help people to become independent in managing their medication and to advocate for the treatment they want, while supporting them to develop wellbeing plans so that they, their family, friends and colleagues can all play a role in managing their wellbeing. We also prepare people for living independently, particularly if they have previously lost a tenancy because they’ve been detained in hospital. 

Perhaps most importantly of all, we support people to build hope. Too often, people with mental health problems are led to feel that they have been written off – told that they will never work, live independently, or make anything of themselves. Our role is to support them to see that they can reach their goals 

Working with trauma 

Many of our clients are living with unaddressed trauma but have been unable to access appropriate treatment from statutory mental health services because they are also struggling with substance misuse – a Catch-22 situation known as ‘dual diagnosis’.  

Our Psychotherapies service offers in house therapeutic support to clients who have complex psychological and emotional needs due to previous experience of adversity or trauma. In many cases, despite lifelong struggles with their mental health, the sessions at SHP are the first time they have ever had this kind of support. 

The effective provision of free and accessible psychotherapies and counselling is a critical lifeline for people needing to make sense of what’s happened in their life, think about what they want for themselves, and how they can move forward. Critically our broad range of talking and arts-based therapies are developed and delivered in-house at SHP, allowing the work to be informed by an understanding of homelessness, the impact of trauma and the environments in which people are living. 

In Spring 2020, we welcomed the East London Mental Health Service (ELMS) in Waltham Forest to our portfolio of services. The service is comprised of six accommodation sites housing up to 19 people, a small floating support service, a counselling service and a day service, which together support over 140 clients. 

Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) 

To embed an understanding of our clients’ psychological and emotional needs across all aspects of our work, we use an approach known as Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE). We use PIE to support our staff to understand behaviours that may lead to and perpetuate homelessness in light of an individual’s thoughts, emotions and past experiences. We apply PIE in five key areas: relationships, staff training and support, the physical environment, our psychological framework, and evaluation. A key element of this is Reflective Practice – embedding in our working practices a culture of thoughtfulness and reflection about how we relate to clients and each other. We have trained staff to be reflective practitioners and established reflective practice across all our accommodation services.