Personalisation without the buzz

Steph has gone to LA to see how organisations such as Providence Row work with people experiencing homelessness. Here she talks about the Illumination Foundation. The team there didn’t seem familiar with the buzzword ‘personalisation’, yet it’s at the centre of everything they do

This week I visited Illumination Foundation. They are a recuperative care centre in Orange Country. People come here when they’re ready to be discharged from hospital but their medical or behavioural needs are still too high for temporary accommodation or supported housing - accommodation where people can get help and support with their day to day lives. 

What was most striking was the interaction between clients and staff. Clients are treated as special guests, staff introduced me to everyone by name and shared something of their past; “this is John, he fought for our country, we’re honoured to have him with us.” 

There is something positive to say about everyone.

There is a large sleeping area for men and another for women as well as a dinning area or common space. I’ve arrived with the doctor and as we walked through the quarters everyone was happy to see her! 

The centre is staffed by nurses but they do not care for clients, they aim to teach people how to manage their own care – they try to be as hands off as possible. They sit with clients as they take their insulin shots, administer their oxygen or count out their medication. They are empowering clients to be able to take care of themselves in a safe and supportive environment. There was clearly a lot going on for the residents but the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive; I asked a worker what the key to all of this was. They replied; “Trust. We have to earn our clients’ trust, everything else flows from there.” 

We’re led out into the large back yard and shown the Peanut cage. Clients won’t stay unless their animals can too so the cage, originally built for Peanut the dog, is key to their success.

‘We get all sorts here, lizards, roosters, ferrets. Animals are all these people have, we’re not in the business of taking them away. If we have to treat animals to treat humans then we will treat animals’.

As we walk through the garden we pass Lee who stands up to greet us. 

“This is Lee, he is one of our talented artists” 

Lee’s story was all to familiar, he had been unstably housed all his life and suffered from Schizophrenia. This led to him attempting to take his own life, he was electrocuted resulting in severe burns and disfigurement. 

Lee talked openly about his future – he had a decision to make. He could move to a specialist unit where he would have support as well as the community aspect that he clearly loved about the Illumination Centre. Alternatively he could move into permanent supportive housing with intensive case management. The staff at the centre had a view on the best option but ultimately it was Lee’s choice; he deserves to be in control of his own destiny. That is when he is most likely to succeed.

If you would like to read more about Steph's trip to LA, have a look at her blog