Wytham Hall runs four supported housing projects in an attractive residential setting in Maida Vale.
We welcome people with a history of homelessness in Westminster, who have identified support needs and who are not using alcohol or drugs. We want to help people who wish to improve their circumstances. This might involve counselling/therapy, undertaking educational courses, training or simply wanting to live in a more settled way with the support of other residents and staff.
Residents enjoy the calm and informal nature of our housing, which is in stark contrast to some of the bigger hostels that they may have experienced before.
In their own words
“When I became street homeless I was clueless as to how to exist and I knew nothing of the services that were on offer to help and support me. Eventually with the help of a worker from St. Mungo’s I was directed to Great Chapel Street Medical Centre where my Doctor identified an increasing need to address a number of long standing and underlying health conditions.
Shortly afterwards I was offered admission to Wytham Hall and I was so glad to come here as my health was in a very poor state. The house I was admitted to gave me the opportunity to address these needs and to relax for the first time in a long time. It gave me somewhere warm, safe and dry and again I would say that it gave me somewhere to relax. It was, and is, a lifesaver. Without it I could see my life going downhill fast. I was depressed. I was tired and completely drained. The timing was perfect.
The house has given me a stable base from which to address my physical health issues and in which to convalesce.
Since I came to Wytham Hall I have come to appreciate the fact that the staff are not on site. That here there is a large degree of independence involved as the residents need to learn to co-exist and to have a little give and take.
By and large the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and social for those that want it. There is a sense of community within the house, but this is not forced upon me. I can dip in and out as suits me.
I remember one day when I was returning to the house. It was a nice day. The world looked better and as I returned home it occurred to me that I had a feeling of contentment that I had not had for quite some time. It was a nice feeling.
Recently when I have discussed moving on from Wytham Hall with my key worker I have realised that I will miss something of this community feeling and my easy access to a support mechanism.
I have realised that I benefit from supporting others as much as I benefit from being supported”.
2018 “A good year”
My year began with my thinking about volunteering (with encouragement from my key worker). Initially, I wanted to work in a museum, but I found it difficult to secure a volunteer post. After giving it some thought, I decided to volunteer where I could help the homeless, where my lived experience of having been street homeless and subsequently living in a supported hostel, would be considered an asset. Happily I was able to secure two volunteer roles.
The first, as an engagement assistant in the activities room at Britain’s largest day centre. The work involves providing a friendly welcome to the service, helping service users (as they are known) to access computer and telephone facilities and signposting them to services available, both at the centre and from external organisations.
Alongside the engagement role, I am now an ongoing member of a service users’ panel, which interviews all new applicants for full-time staff positions at the centre. I have also been involved in fundraising activities, which have included radio and film interviews and giving a presentation to potential donors.
My second job is as a ‘peer advocate’ where I am tasked with enabling homeless people to access homeless services. For this role, I attended and graduated from a 6 week long training course and then obtained my DBS clearance (formerly CRB) which allowed me to work with vulnerable people with complex needs. The activities I am involved in include one to one appointments e.g. getting someone registered with a GP, accompanying a service user to a hospital appointment and/or some in-reach work at hostels or other centres.
I have greatly enjoyed both of these roles. It is very satisfying to support and empower others to make important changes to their lives. I particularly like that it is the outcome for the service user that is most important rather than the outcome for the staff. Empathising with those who are homeless and a sense of giving something back for all the support given to me personally, are powerful motivating factors for my wanting to volunteer in this area.
In June, after over two years on a waiting list, I moved into my own studio flat and have become ‘not homeless’! It has been a happy move for me, but I was extremely sad to leave behind good friends, both the staff and my fellow residents at Wytham Hall. I will be forever thankful that Wytham Hall allowed me the time and space to rebuild my life.
Finally, following an interview, I was offered paid employment as a day-centre engagement worker.
So, as you can see, 2018 has been a very good year.