Homelessness & Complex Needs Case Study – *Dessie's story

Dessie has a long history of crack cocaine and heroin use, and engaging in prostitution to fund her habit. She also has a long history of street homelessness.

Dessie has been in and out of services and was visiting other accommodation providers in Medway, staying in their accommodation, using illegal substances, and sex working with clients. This resulted in several calls to blue light services and regular reports of concerns for Dessie’s welfare and her safety and the safety of the providers’ own residents.

Dessie was then referred to the Blue Light Project Group by the accommodation provider. Our Group member Pathways to Independence sit within and are considered a lead agency on the Blue Light Project. The project is an innovative multi-agency approach, facilitated by Medway Council’s Public Health Department (in partnership with Alcohol Concern), to inform joint interventions aimed at adult substance misusers with complex needs and with a history of poor engagement with services. The group meets monthly, and clients are referred to the meeting to discuss how agencies can engage with clients in a planned way.

 Dessie was discussed over a number of months and initially, her chaotic nature meant that she was difficult to engage. Pathways agreed to meet Dessie on three separate occasions over a period of time to assess her desire to engage with services and her general suitability for supported accommodation. This was with the support of Kent Police and other local housing providers.

Dessie engaged with this process and was offered accommodation with Pathways, along with an agreed action plan for her to engage with 1:1 sessions with Turning Point (TP) within Pathways’ accommodation and regular support sessions with Pathways staff.   

Initially engaging with TP, Dessie further reduced her drug use with help from Pathways staff despite not wishing to continue their sessions. Pathways supported her by filling her time in more innovative ways. Working with her required looking at alternative ways of engaging her with support.

Dessie expressed a desire to develop her skills around dressmaking and the Service Manager applied for an education fund payment from Pathways (an internal fund that helps clients to access education and training) to purchase material and equipment and referred her to a dressmaking course. This was successful, and Dessie developed dressmaking skills, as well as accessing an education course and the opportunity to begin to produce her own dresses.

Dessie has also played an active part in client forums and sat on interview panels for new staff, (creating questions and interviewing candidates) including a new staff member for the property in which she lives. This has given her confidence and self-respect.

Pathways offered Dessie flexible key-working times and locations to fit in with her needs, which has proven to be beneficial in engaging with her. She has developed into a responsible member of the house and although she continues to have complexities that challenge her, she has stopped sex working and is no longer in contact with Blue Light Services.  She has also maintained a stable home, something she had not had for a considerable period of time.

After some time in Pathways’ step-down service, Dessie recently moved into her own independent flat.

  * Dessie’s real name has been changed to protect her identity.