Loss of hope is our biggest challenge

By Ross Fisher-Smith

27 February 2018

Porchlight blog - homelessness rise

'The last thing to die is hope' (Italian proverb) 

During my many years as a community support worker in Thanet, I have come across countless people who are facing not just homelessness but complete and utter loss of hope. Life has dealt them so many blows that they've given up on the idea that things will ever get better.  

So what can we as frontline workers do? Well, there are practical solutions to solving someone's homelessness. We can assist or guide that person to find accommodation and address their most immediate needs.

But giving someone hope – helping them to believe in their future – is a much bigger challenge. Where is the chapter in the training manual that tells us how to unstitch years of struggling to make ends meet on a low paid job or benefits, or the misery of unstable or unsafe housing? How do we promote optimism against the bleak realities of a poor coastal community with uneven economic growth and few opportunities?

We can start by offering a willing ear. We can really listen to an individual's story and understand how they came to be in the situation they're in. Being informed by the person themselves – and what they feel they need – helps us empower and motivate them so that they can start to self-manage their issues.

And we can show compassion. With a growing caseload and not enough hours in the day, there is pressure to provide the necessary practical assistance and to move on to the next client who needs us.

But it's compassion that will start to restore a person's faith in themselves and their trust in others. By showing compassion – being someone who cares – we can help people see that the world is not always as cruel as it seems and give them renewed hope for their future. 

Ross Fisher-Smith is part of Porchlight's Thanet team, helping people in the community who are at risk of homelessness. The team help people to access services that will improve their outlook, their physical and mental health and, ultimately, their wellbeing.