Participants and staff with Jon Potter (right) at Serena Hall
A few weeks ago Company Paradiso completed a project that used music and writing to develop people’s emotional wellbeing. We worked with young people living independently at Slough Foyer and YMCA, and with homeless people at Serena Hall, a drop-in centre run by Slough Homeless Our Concern (SHOC).
Over the project we came to believe that overcoming homelessness is not so much about giving shelter, although that is important for stability, but about emotional health, having a reason to change and wanting to change. Otherwise, you can get temporary accommodation or go into rehab but that may not work and you will be back on the street. Sometimes people have a ‘moment of clarity’ where they suddenly see things from a different angle and change course. We were looking for these moments.
We identified the benefit of looking forward. One of the staff said that it’s very important to have a sense of future, because if you’ve got nothing to look forward to, you’ll go back to what you know, which in this case that could be homelessness, addiction, prison and so on. Much of the writing on the project, in lyrics, letters and diaries, was about love and the importance of family and those who support us or value us.
We came to understand that being of service to others is very beneficial for one’s wellbeing. One of the steps on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step recovery programme is being of service to others, and we kept on this theme because we felt it was so important. The benefits of being of service to your children, for example, can be life changing. As can re-establishing a relationship with a loved one.
In our project we encouraged people to write cards. One day a group of homeless people sat in the corridor at Serena Hall writing to mothers, sons, daughters, partners, in many cases getting back in contact after a long time. One member of the group, Robert, described this:
‘My mission at the moment is to connect together my two sons, with me in their presence. Maybe I’ll write to the school. To break the ice, and let them know that I love them to bits.’
For more on this see Projects, Homeless Hearts Club, or Listen Again 2012.