Article written by Peer Mentor Coordinator Steven Barkess
Expert citizens, who remain a key element of the VOICES partnership, again showed the power of learning through lived experience. Throughout January members of the expert citizens planned and delivered a workshop focusing on the issue of homelessness to team members from the Premier Inn and Trentham Estate.
By using their lived experience and giving true life testimonies of their time of being homeless the expert citizens group was able to highlight some of the key issues and barriers that they faced. They also demonstrated how people can become entrenched in a life of multiple and complex needs due to these barriers. This wasn’t all doom and gloom, they were also able to show how they have been able to overcome these barriers and also highlight ways in which the processes which people experiencing homelessness face could be developed to create better engagement and allow a person move away from homelessness.
The workshop also challenged the perceptions of those working in the private sector and developed awareness of how people can fall into homelessness without necessarily experiencing multiple and complex needs in any formal sense. The workshop was well received by Whitbread and the Premier Inn staff and they showed an appreciation of the issue of homelessness and how easily people can find themselves in this position. Following the meeting of the team members provided the following feedback:
“It takes some guts to stand up and say what you have been through to a group of strangers so we all admire them for that. Hopefully we will be seeing you again with some more of our team members involved” (Premier Inn Team Member)
For many of those who facilitated and planned this workshop it was the first time that they had spoken about their experiences in public and shared their stories, here is what a few of them had to say;
“Very positive and well received by the staff and refreshing that positive feedback was given and that they had shown their appreciation and took on board thee elements of the day and recognised the importance of homelessness awareness in the private sector and how their own staff could be affected by this” (Sue Perry)
“It made me realise how much I had gone through and also how much I have achieved, it was hard reliving it and I was really nervous telling my story but know if feel like I have some direction and it has given me confidence” (Gary Scott)
“I haven’t ever done anything like this before and up until the day I wasn’t going to tell my story myself but being with other people who have been through hard times and there to support me changed my mind and did it, I feel so proud of myself and more confident, I can’t wait until the next one” (Tracey Pennill)