Southdown Steps team

Southdown Steps: Rebuilding lives of former rough sleepers in Worthing

Posted on 30 August 2023

Jim Aspdin, our Director of Housing and Business Services, shares how we repurposed a recently closed learning disability service to provide a lifeline for rough sleepers in the area.

 Bringing forward the supply of new supported housing is challenging – requiring the identification of revenue funding for the provision of support and matching this with a vacant property suitable for the intended client group.  

 Following the closure of a care service for people with learning disabilities in Worthing town centre, Southdown sought to identify future uses for the building that would allow us to act as a force for good in the local community and transform the lives of clients in housing need.  

 With rough sleeper numbers consistently climbing and a lack of social housing in the area, repurposing the building in this way was a clear decision to make.   

 Working in partnership with Adur & Worthing Councils, we applied for and secured funding via Homes England to refurbish the building to provide homes and support for rough sleepers. The funding secured is part of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP).  

 What’s happened since? 

Our Property Services team has been hard at work over the past year refurbishing the building to provide nine spacious, bright, and clean individual flats. Recognising the benefits of designing psychologically informed environments – a door fob entry system provides additional safety and security in the block. Tenants have access to the communal stairs and their own floor only- this allows tenants to build a sense of safety and security even whilst living alongside others they may have previously encountered on the streets.  

 This approach has enabled us to make one floor accessible only to female residents. This is particularly important as women who have been street homeless are likely to have experienced their own traumatic experiences on the street which may have compounded the issues that led to their initial homelessness. 

 A sprinkler system has been installed and Southdown has also invested in cutting-edge solar panel technology that provides energy savings for each of the individual flats (rooftop solar has previously only been accessible to stand alone homes).  

 Southdown Steps 

 Whilst our Property Services’ team were busy refurbishing the building, our Housing Support team were busy setting up the Southdown Steps service. 

 This included recruiting the support team (two full-time members and a team manager) and working in partnership with Adur and Worthing Councils and other housing support providers to establish the referral route and connections within the support community. We welcomed the first tenant into their new home in March 2023.  

 Our strengths-based needs assessment allowed us to identify people in need of support to move on from homelessness, rough sleeping, and re-establish themselves in the community. 

In collaboration with Adur & Worthing Councils’ Housing Needs Department, local temporary accommodation providers and other support agencies, we prioritised people most in need of the support on offer, many of whom have been in ‘the system’ for years. 

Our safety planning and risk assessment processes focused on creating a safe environment for everyone, whilst balancing positive risk taking with trauma-informed support planning. 

About the service 

Southdown Steps provides accommodation, housing management and tenancy support for up to nine people from the Adur and Worthing area who have been homeless or living in temporary or supported accommodation, including hostels. The service is suitable for those who are ready to move into self-contained accommodation and require support and stability before moving on to longer-term independent housing.  Southdown’s Resettlement Support Officers are based on-site Monday to Friday, during daytime office hours.  The Resettlement Support Officers support each tenant within their accommodation, offering personalised, strength-based, and trauma-informed support. In addition, each tenant is allocated a named Housing Officer to respond to and oversee any routine Housing Management tasks and repairs. All referrals are made via the Adur and Worthing Housing Options team. 

Rebuilding lives

Rob Westlake, Team Manager for Southdown Steps, shares how the service is helping to rebuild lives: 

He says, “The team work in an open supportive way to help tenants gain independence for the next stage of their lives. We support tenants to be aware that there will be issues and things in their lives that may not always go smoothly but we are here to work with them through those obstacles and build a strong working relationship to enable them to achieve their goals.

The team can often deal with entrenched behaviours such as clients who are not willing to accept help or scared to ask. Lasting change takes time. Clients are given security of their own home as the basis of being able to explore what works for them and the time to build lasting structure and change in their lives.

The tenants are responding incredibly well to the service and thriving in an environment where they can have peace of mind, take pride in their homes and a safe environment.

The staff have worked tirelessly to help provide the tenants all the essentials they need to maintain a home such as furniture, utensils, set up utility bills and most importantly a sense of purpose.

The team signpost clients to local services. And we are currently setting up weekly drop-in sessions for the tenants with organisations such as the Hep C Trust and the Council’s Employment and Training coach. We hope to grow this side of the service over the coming months so tenants can access a range of services within the building.”

Tenant feedback 

“Being here, on my own, calm, I can get through things a lot quicker. Peace is a big difference between here and a hostel. You can start planning.

Settling in has been great. Contact is very good. If I want to speak to staff, it’s a phone call or text away.

It’s my home. When I went through the doors, I was, wow, how modern, how clean, the size. I’m very impressed. It’s also a place where my daughter and family can visit. She couldn’t do it for over a year.

Knowing staff are there makes this transition easier, big time. If there’s something I’m not sure about, the guys will look into it.

Trust means your mental state gets better, focus gets better, and you can see a future. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and it’s up to you to keep that going.

If you want this, you have to work with support services. You can have a better life.”

Working in partnership 

Catriona Donnelly, Homeless Prevention Team Leader at Adur and Worthing Council (pictured above with – left to right – Rob Westlake, Team Manager for Southdown Steps, Jim Aspdin, Director of Housing & Business Services at Southdown, and James Oshogwe, Resettlement Support Officer), says:

“Working closely with the team at Southdown has meant that together we have been able to help some of our most vulnerable and hard-to-reach clients move into settled, good quality housing where they are continuing to receive a high level of support from the team, tailored to their needs.

I feel hopeful that the residents of the project have a more positive future; it has been really encouraging to see how well they have settled in their new home and beginning to think about their next steps.

This is a huge step forward for people who have experienced a background of rough sleeping and insecure housing with few options, and it is good to know that they will have the support of the Southdown team through this journey.  I am looking forward to working with Southdown colleagues to continue this great work with our clients.”