Addressing homelessness: John Cassap’s Story
Published: 18 Apr 2018
Homelessness outreach worker John Cassap travelled to the USA in 2016 to explore new approaches to addressing homelessness. John’s recommendations following his travels have informed new programmes developed by his organisation.
John spent six weeks in the USA, meeting with homeless services, government officials and charities in several different states. His learning focused on housing veterans with complex needs and how services adapt after a rapid increase in the number of homeless people.
A highlight from John’s trip was observing how services engaged with homeless veterans in New Orleans, the first city in the US to end homelessness among this group. Serving military personnel in uniform accompanied outreach teams and John observed homeless veterans engaging far more willingly with these servicemen and women than would ordinarily be the case. Information-sharing enabled people who were veterans to be accurately identified and ensured they had access to the support they were eligible for.
John credits his Fellowship with making a massive contribution to his growth and development, both professionally, where he has been promoted to a more senior role, and personally. His new role at Changing Lives, a national charity providing specialist support to vulnerable people and their families, is in addiction services, but as his new department is co-located with the organisation’s homeless services, he is able to advise and help co-ordinate services regarding homeless individuals with addictions. He also supports staff in homeless services with reflective practice when working with clients who present with dual needs.
Recommendations from John’s Fellowship have been fed back to his organisation, as well as local government, and have informed the development of two new programmes.
One programme supports veterans with multiple and complex needs, helping them to make lasting and positive changes. Influenced by John’s experiences in New Orleans, staff with a military past have been recruited to act as peer support within this service.
The second programme will see Changing Lives offer a ‘Housing First’ approach to clients. The ‘Housing First’ model asserts that homelessness should be addressed through the immediate provision of permanent housing, with support for other issues subsequently offered on an ongoing basis. For the first time in the UK, this will be offered on a cross-borough basis, giving clients a greater choice about where they live.