Like many people who are homeless, EEA nationals rough sleeping in London, often have unresolved family issues that may have contributed to their current circumstances. People can experience feelings of shame about not having played an expected role or having to admit to their circumstances (homelessness, support needs etc) to family. It may also be the case that they have completely lost contact with family members, including children.
Routes Home has worked with people to support reunification of people with their families, both here and in a home country. This sometimes involves working in partnership with Consular Services or local police to trace family members. For some people, knowing that family members are waiting for them when they return home can be a strong motivating factor to seek treatment or support. It is however important to acknowledge it can take time to deal with painful feelings.
Tips for supporting contact with family members:
- Always speak to your client first to make sure they are comfortable with you contacting their family members and there are no risks you should be aware of.
- When speaking to families explain the support that you and other organisations can provide. This will mean that families do not feel alone in supporting a family member who may have support needs.
- Have a clear dialogue with the person you’re supporting about how much information to share with families. For example, some individuals are reluctant for their families to know that they have been rough sleeping.
- Where there are family issues, it may be necessary to revisit the discussion once you have a relationship if it is refused at first. Where people are initially reluctant to seek family support, make sure that you explore with them the underlying reasons for this; it may be their own anxieties about how they will be perceived by their families rather than the families being unsupportive which prevents them from making contact.
- It helps to support clients to make the initial contact; encourage clients to speak to family members themselves by phone to start re-building the relationship. Consider arranging for family to visit and meet somebody here, rather than only thinking about meeting family on return.
- Remember that seeking family support won’t be appropriate in all cases, i.e. where there have been incidents of violence.