The Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2017 reports bring together learning and reflections from participants' placements with US and UK homelessness services. The UK group covered Housing First for Women, Employment, Strengths Based Practice and Critical Time Intervention. The US group explored Employment, Youth Homelessness, Engaging the PRS, LGBT+ Support for Youth, and Systems Change for Chronic Homelessness.
Apply now for Transatlantic Practice Exchange 2018!
To inspire you, we’ve collated some excerpts from Ruth Wallbank’s blog about her exchange trip to Grand Rapids in Michigan, to learn about Strengths-Based Practice.
Day 1: All the questions
When I applied for the Transatlantic Practice Exchange I was a little overwhelmed. The idea of a two-week trip overseas seemed too good to be true. The Exchange programme isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about having all the questions. Getting my application ready was a challenging process, but everything I read, researched and wrote raised more questions. Instead of feeling terrified, I felt inspired.
Day 2: A strengths-based tour
When I had my tour of Community Rebuilders, Anna, the Chief Operating Officer, individually introduced each of the 17 services they provide, and the staff, with unwavering enthusiasm and positivity. The pride she feels in them, their work and their achievements are evident.
When I think about my own colleagues and the amazing things I’ve seen them do, I’m kicking myself at all the opportunities I’ve missed to not only promote all that we’ve achieved but also remind them of how proud I am of the work they do and their innumerable strengths.
“The worst that can happen is that you’ll learn something that can help someone.”
Day 4: A tale of two cities
Grand Rapids is facing a housing crisis. Affordable housing is hard to come by as young professionals who are used to paying high rents elsewhere flood back to the buzzing city, landlords are in a fortunate position.
Despite the difficulties, Community Rebuilders is making Housing First work here. Their Housing Resource Specialists use the strengths-based approach to build strong, lasting relationships with landlords and consumers. I was struck by their desire to include landlord’s strengths and ensure that they understand the vital role they play in the mission to end homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Day 5: Strengths-based training
We discussed the principles of Strengths-Based Case Management. Rachel and I focused on: “Trauma, abuse, illness and struggle may be injurious, but they may also be sources of challenge and opportunity”.
We discussed the actions that promote this: “When consumers are struggling to meet life’s challenges you are able to point out competencies, resilient and resourcefulness.”
We discussed the ‘detours’ that workers can find themselves taking that stop work with a client being strengths-based: “I see ineffective and unhealthy behaviours and use these to determine needs.”
Robert was kind enough to let me see his incredible home and we talked about how he got there. He said that living on the street had afforded him "no quiet place, no quiet moment where I could get into my purpose." Now he has that. We talked about life and politics, his experience of growing up in Michigan, vinyl, disco and his current home, neighbourhood and community.
Meeting Robert compounded everything that I had thought and felt during my trip to Grand Rapids. To focus on people's deficits is beyond a disservice, it is traumatic and damaging. Despite ten years of homelessness, hardship and adversity Robert has never lost sight of who he is, let's create a system that remembers that too.
Why apply for the Exchange?
We’re all wrapped up in our own caseloads, our own organisations and our own cities, but why stop there? Didn’t we all get into this line of work so that we could change the world? Opportunities like this don’t come up very often in our sector. You've got to grab them while you can. If you’re hesitating, don’t: apply for the Exchange.
Applications for this year’s exchange are now open. The topic guide and details of how to apply can be found here. Good luck!
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Innovation and good practice project manager
Jo is an innovation and good practice project manager, leading a range of projects and training including Housing First England and Trauma Informed Care.
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