New graduates enhance professionalism and excellence of Sunderland and Hull’s homelessness support services

published on 19 Jul 2017

[From left to right: Pat Tamminen, Sonia Park-Ritchie, Stephen Park, Craig Hilton and Christine Ritchie]

Dedicated Salvation Army homelessness services staff members have graduated with a valued service sector diploma – Level 5 in Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services – enhancing the professional expert support on offer to people experiencing homelessness in Sunderland and Hull.

Swan Lodge Lifehouse's Service Manager Christine Ritchie, administrator Craig Hilton and support worker Stephen Park (all Sunderland), and William Booth House Lifehouse Service Manager Pat Tamminen (Hull), with Sonia Ritchie-Park, who is a tutor at Swan Lodge, graduated the yearlong course from New College, Durham, on Friday 7 July 2017.

Craig said: ‘We always want to meet the high standards set out in the sector but, more than that, we want to exceed expectations when we are supporting vulnerable residents. The information-sharing with other agencies provided a depth to what we were learning from the course and from each other - it also provided opportunities to continue that on through partnerships.

‘Already, we deliver a fully professional service from Swan Lodge but this course will enhance the skills of our team and our shared knowledge base has widened. It’s our collective longing for people to reach their God-given potential – every individual is of value and worth and deserves the chance to fulfil that potential.’

Pat added: ‘At William Booth House Lifehouse we work with people as they journey towards sustainable and independent living so our staff team is committed to providing the most effective support to people who experience homelessness in Hull.

‘With this diploma, I feel that my experiences as a homelessness services professional have been ratified. The Salvation Army has shown real dedication to its employees’ lifelong learning, equipping us – whether we are 21 or 61 - to not only provide professional homelessness services but to ensure our skills are continually enhanced with ongoing learning and support.’

While Swan Lodge Lifehouse provides accommodation for a significant number of people who have alcohol problems and other complex needs, including mental health and substance misuse, the centre doesn’t only offer a roof over someone’s head. While staying at the Lifehouse, people have the opportunity to engage in innovative meaningful activities, such as education, key lifeskills (such as cookery, employment skills) and enjoyable activities and hobbies such as photography, football and camping.

Residents recently produced a glossy photography book – supported by tutor Sean Robson - featuring images they had taken through a project at the centre, covering landscapes and nature from camping trips they’d taken part in to daytrips and photos of each other.

William Booth Lifehouse provides up to 113 single people experiencing homelessness with direct-access bedsit accommodation, some 28 of these rooms are set up as resettlement accommodation to help prepare residents for independent living. Staff provide a full support programme and residents are encouraged to access support outside the centre to further develop lifeskills and employability.

Reflecting on her diploma, Christine Ritchie said: ‘Not only is the qualification highly regarded by those in the social care sector, but it also provided invaluable opportunities to bring together professionals from other agencies and varying levels of training to ensure we could share our combined experiences and learn from each other.

‘Our fellow students were surprised to hear about all that we do at Swan Lodge and the extremely tough circumstances our service users are working through. We were able to provide a clear insight to how our service offers more than a roof over someone’s head when they’re in need – it provides a safe space where transformation can take place.’