12 May 2016

I was once a resident at Liverpool YMCA. I arrived at the hostel fearing that it wouldn’t be long before I would probably be asked to leave. The majority of my life had been spent using some substance or another, leading to homelessness at the age of 18. I had been asked to leave other hostels for breaking the rules and regulations, something I had been doing all my life. I didn’t know anything different.

Along the path that I had taken, I rebelled against those in authority, especially in prisons, police stations, hostels and drug treatment services. They didn’t understand me, I was an addict and I couldn’t stop using…………no matter how hard I tried and no matter how much I wanted to. I always felt I was being punished by those in authority for something I couldn’t stop doing. I always felt I was being judged, stereotyped, generalised and put down for the person that I had become. I felt I was being viewed as a dirty junkie, a criminal, someone who was no good, a failure. I just wanted someone to see me as a person with problems and treat me with dignity, not like I was a piece of scum.

Being at Liverpool YMCA was a blessing and I didn’t get asked to leave. In fact I left of my own accord when I started on my own personal journey into recovery.

Here we are just over 8 years later and I now work for the organisation where my journey began………………………Liverpool YMCA. I have progressed from being a resident to being a resident support worker.

I possess the experience of being worked with as a vulnerable adult and now I experience working with vulnerable adults. That experience allows me to say that Liverpool YMCA has changed the way it works with the residents residing at its hostel. It has developed into an organisation at the forefront of working with people experiencing homelessness.

Liverpool YMCA works as a flexible approach hostel, working with individuals in a person centred way. Residents are welcomed on arrival and made to feel comfortable in a dignified respectful way. Staff make a point of introducing themselves to the new resident, something that didn’t happen in my experience of hostel living. Time is also taken before induction to talk to the new resident about life in general. This can help the resident to understand that the staff member is interested in him/her as a person, looking beyond the problems the person may present with. I know that this, in my experience of homelessness, would have made me feel somewhat wanted, helping me to understand that workers were not viewing me as I was used to being viewed and that maybe I could start to trust the workers. The air of authority that I was accustomed to was not within ‘these’ people in ‘this’ environment.

Liverpool YMCA now works as a Psychologically Informed Environment, brought about by training and an understanding of Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) skills. CAT is a method used by the workers to understand why a person may present with certain behaviours and more importantly how staff responses can enable such behaviours to be carried on or how ‘informed’ responses may be used to achieve change in the smallest of ways. Liverpool YMCA works in a way that enables its residents to ‘self inform’ as to how behaviours affect others. This is totally different than ‘being told’ about behaviours as in my experience ‘being told’ came from authority and fuelled my rebellion not to change.

I see the way the organisation does not ‘do to’, but ‘does with’ its residents. YMCA places a lot of value on its residents input and takes into account that its residents sometimes know their own conditions best and engages its residents with a view of working together for the best outcomes.

My experience of homelessness and hostel life does not make me an expert but it does give me the credibility to comment on how much change has occurred since being a resident at Liverpool YMCA. Liverpool YMCA has undergone change for the better. It also continues to change for the benefit of the vulnerable people the organisation helps on a daily basis.