TURNING Lives Around residential and group facilities are receiving a facelift to make them more welcoming and user friendly in line with the organisation’s trauma informed approach.

A ‘trauma informed approach’ is about recognising and appreciating the impact that past trauma, particularly in early childhood, will have on those who’ve experienced it and working in a way to avoid retriggering this trauma.

Our Way Leeds (OWL) Emergency Accommodation for young people has undergone extensive refurbishment and redecoration in the last two years across all nine emergency bedrooms as well as corridors, communal kitchens, bathrooms and lounge areas. Even the office and staff welfare areas have had new life breathed into them.

Much of the work has been carried out by Senior Housing Support Worker at OWL Emergency Accommodation Kerri Walker and she is also working with colleagues at TLA’s other Intensive Support Environments (ISE) Grace Lodge, Carr Beck and Oakdale.

As well as introducing new colour schemes, Kerri is also personalising the ISE with creative feature walls to reflect and inspire those living in the accommodation and the services being provided. For example, at OWL Emergency Accommodation, there is an owl in the entrance hall plus a colourful selfie wall in the lounge while Oakdale is having an oak tree in their entrance hall.

The same approach is being taken by Sustain Wakefield in their group room which has been uplifted by positivity quotes and artwork from service users plus the activity room at the OWL Hub on Dewsbury Road.

“It’s about improving the general ambience of accommodation and facilities used by clients to make it more comforting and welcoming,” explained Kerri.

“The majority of our young people have been through trauma in their lives and need somewhere they feel safe and comfortable. As support workers we can be brilliant but if the environment is shabby and dingy, that’s not going to help. They need somewhere inviting and comfortable which reminds them of their safe place.”

While the pandemic has meant residents haven’t been able to get as involved in the refurbishment as Kerri would have liked, they have still had a big say in what’s been done, choosing colours and flooring from shortlists provided and input into the feature walls. As a result, they are more respectful of their surroundings and help to look after them.

“In the past we have had young people come here who have been really worried at the prospect of ‘living in a hostel’ but within no time at all they’re saying it’s not what they expected and are referring to it as home,” said Kerri.

“The fact that I’ve done a lot of the work – usually classed as a man’s job – has also been a topic of conversation. We want to empower our young people here and it’s shown the girls that they can do this sort of tasks themselves and made the boys more respectful.”

The refurbishments are being tailored to the people living in the schemes as much as possible. For instance, at Grace House which accommodates men with multiple complex needs, a more masculine feel is the aim with a grey and white colour scheme.

The work that is being carried out to make TLA’s facilities more inviting has been welcomed by Chief Executive Janet Spencer.

She said: “We work with many people from all walks of life, many of whom have experienced tremendous trauma in their lives. It is so important that when they come to us, they feel safe and comfortable. This makes the support we provide so much more effective and, changing our physical environments to make them more welcoming, is going a long way to helping to achieve this.”

With work well underway on changing inside environments, focus is expanding to take in the great outdoors. After being nominated by Digital Leeds and receiving an Amazon Community Grant for £3,000, OWL Emergency Accommodation decided to share it amongst its fellow TLA schemes. They are encouraging them to spend some of it on improving their outdoor space and take part in a competition for the best outdoor space transformation. Judging takes place in May.

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