I re-read a report, today, by Gerard Lemos and Stefan Durkacz (published by Lemos & Crane) entitled “Dreams Deferred” which was published back in 2002 but which is still very relevant to the work of Doorway today.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore –
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust or sugar over –
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
“Dreams Deferred – the families and friends of homeless and vulnerable people”
Research commissioned by Thames Reach found that social exclusion and institutionalisation do not prevent homeless people from valuing intimacy, friendships and family connections.
Entitled Dreams Deferred after the poem above by Langston Hughes, the report was launched on 18th October 2002. It provides a comprehensive study into the social networks of homeless people.
Contrary to perceptions, homeless people are often in contact with family members, usually siblings and grandparents. The people questioned said they wanted help to make new friends and re-establish ties with family.
The report recommends using family mediation to prevent relationship breakdown, the most commonly cited cause of homelessness. Continued contact with friends and family once somebody has found a home also helps to prevent individuals from depending on street culture and returning to homelessness
The report concludes with the description of a “Dreams Deferred” toolkit which was used as the model for our Moving On pilot project running between 2007 and 2008.
This scheme has now been developed, reviewed and subsequently re-introduced, as part of our highly successful structured support programme for guests.
The project is geared towards the provision of one to one holistic support enabling guests to identify their life goals and work toward them in small achievable steps.
Lemos & Durkacz define the aim as:-
“to provide vulnerable people with a structured way of reflecting on their relationships, their lives and their behaviour. They can then consider their goals, take action to meet those goals and learn from that action. In short, it is a structured approach to facilitating people to change some aspect of their own lives.”
“Dreams Deferred – the families and friends of homeless and vulnerable people” – the findings and recommendations:
- Homelessness is not the only cause of loneliness and isolation. Homeless people also often have a range of other needs (such as drug misuse or mental health problems) as well as having nowhere to live. Those other needs, rather than being homeless, may have led them to being isolated and lonely.
- Services to assist vulnerable people, who are isolated, to build and rebuild social networks should be available to everybody who needs them, regardless of whether they have been homeless, or are in danger of becoming homeless.
- Homeless and vulnerable people rely on day centres for socialising and such an environment may be pivotal in forming and maintaining social relationships.
- Homeless people have not entirely lost their social networks or social skills. They still seek out companionship and warmth and some manage to sustain intimate relationships despite their often chaotic and transient circumstances.
Thames Reach Chief Executive Jeremy Swain said: “This valuable report clearly illustrates the high priority given by homeless people to rebuilding and strengthening their social networks. The message from them to organisations working with homeless people is clear – make this an essential part of the service you offer.”
The Doorway ‘Moving On’ Process
The aim of this process is for support workers to provide guests with a structured way to reflect on their lives and behaviour and to help guests to
- Map their situation
- Decide if and what they wish to change
- Agree steps they can take towards this change
- Plan and take the action they have decided upon
- Review and learn from the action they have taken, in preparation for taking further action.
Support workers, however, should guard against being over-ambitious. Unrealistic expectations should be avoided, both about what can be achieved and the pace at which it can be achieved.
Not every guest even with the help of a support worker will be able to work their way through all stages of the process. Staff and guests can use the parts they think are relevant and helpful and which will help guests to make as much progress as they feel is appropriate for them.
Similarly the process may raise issues and problems that are beyond the skills of the support worker and may highlight the need for professional help.
The process is in 3 stages:
1. Plan (first meeting and subsequent sessions)
2. Do (guest acts with support from workers)
Guests are encouraged to reflect on and learn from the action they have taken, so that the process would become self-reinforcing:
Reflection – Insight – Decision – Action – Reflection – Insight etc
“Never give children a chance to imagine that everything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very beginning that all living is relationships”
Dreams Deferred is a piece of collaborative research with Alone in London, St Basil’s and Thames Reach. It was undertaken by Lemos and Crane, and is available for free from the Lemos and Crane website by filling in their contact form.