Living in Temporary accommodation'

This page on the website matches the essay chapter 'Living in Temporary Accommodation: on meeting the psychological and emotional needs of those who are transiently housed', in 'Unfinished business: essays on the Psychologically Informed Environment' (Fertile Imagination Press, Falmouth, 2023).

What follows is an extract from the introductory pages of this essay.

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Overall precis

In the midst of the current housing crisis, there has been growing concern at the position of homeless families, housed by local authorities in temporary accommodation whilst waiting for more permanent housing to become available.

Although homeless and formally recognised as vulnerable, this group has had relatively little attention hitherto in the discussions on advancing constructive practice in homelessness services. Likewise their particular needs have not so far featured in the discussions of trauma-informed care (TIC) or psychologically informed environments (PIEs).

With a complex web of systemic and structural failures that urgently need addressing at strategic level, it is understandable that the psychological and emotional side is not often considered in these more strategic forums.   Nevertheless in local and national discussions there is a concern for the voices of those in this plight to be heard; and in this we can start to glimpse some at least of the issues, and the way that local services and systems might enhance the sensitivity of the emotional support they can provide.

Here we will look first at some of the emotions expressed; and then lay out the main themes of TIC and the PIE approach, to see how useful they might be – or might be developed to be - in the work of Transitional Accommodation Action Groups (TAAGs) .

TIC clearly has something to offer. It is very adaptable as a staff training module, and can provide a common ground for disparate services; but the emotions we hear of in TA do not fit too well with the evidence base for trauma as the key underlying issue to be addressed; plus it is not always clear how to translate the enhanced awareness that TC offers into practice changes in services.

The PIE approach stresses the importance of relationships and thoughtfulness in services; but it is also more systemic in focus than the TIC. It offers five main areas or ‘themes’ that services and systems might look at, to explore what they might do more of, or better; and three of these PIE themes in particular address more systemic issues (Learning & Enquiry, Spaces of Opportunity and ‘The Three Rs’) which seem quite relevant to the work of TAAGs.

Even so, does it really help to find the TIC and PIEs concepts applicable here? Are they actually useful? Here we look at how the PIEs assessment framework, known as ‘the Pizazz’, might be applied in local systems as well as in services.

It has even been suggested that a new version of the PIEs framework might be needed, to draw more attention to the specific issues in systems and pathways as built environments. But there is a risk of adding complexity and confusion, in introducing new models. The more modest alternative is to consider this as an area where the PIEs framework simply needs translating into the particular context where it is applied, such as in TAAGs.


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Other reading

'Unfinished business : further essays on Psychologically Informed Environments' : HERE