Building positive professional relationships

26 February 2018

What does a good professional relationship look like for homeless young people?

To be young and homeless is a very difficult position to be in. This is why the services offered by Centrepoint are vital.

Throughout my research, young people often spoke about their positive relationships with staff. Navigating their way through homelessness against a backdrop of stigma and rejection, staff helped them to rebuild their trust in adults.

One young person I spoke to said it was "nee good when people know you live in a homeless hostel". But the relationships with staff reduced the sense adults made judgements about them.

Another young person commented that while others thought of him as a "scrounger", he didn't want to be on benefits. He felt he just needed some support for a little while he recovered from past traumatic experiences.

The journey to independence

To build such positive relationships, young people said it was important staff encouraged them to speak openly. They also wanted to be met with a sense of understanding and to feel they were safe.

"I didn't come into the job change young people. I came to meet them where they are at, at their own and with their own goals," said one staff member.

Staff realised they had to give young people a safe place where they could learn from their mistakes. Young people also appreciated that support workers involved them in decisions around their own lives.

While young people said staff often went above and beyond what they expected, they felt they needed more access to mental health services.

"NHS and Centrepoint should work with GP notes on how they [young people] get on with day to day stuff. What they struggle with, so it helps put stuff at the back of the mind," said one young person.

Staff helped make young people feel comfortable at Centrepoint services, which encouraged them to speak honestly about their mental health. A drop-in service from mental health professionals would make a huge difference.

With this support, young people would be better equipped to work towards a brighter future and a more positive self-image.

Read about the research

Philip Mullen's, PHD Candidate, research in collaboration with Centrepoint. The research involved dropping in to a Centrepoint service regularly over the course of six months to get to know, listen and work with, young people, staff and volunteers.