Since introducing regular mindfulness sessions at Newbury House, our supported housing service in Manchester, residents have increasingly seen positive changes in their mental health and wellbeing – reporting feeling “more relaxed, happier and freer.”
Newbury House is a supported accommodation project for people who have experience of long-term rough sleeping and complex needs.
In October 2021, we launched mindfulness sessions which have been held weekly by Mandy Sellars, a specialist wellbeing and therapeutic yoga practitioner who has over 20 years of experience in the field.
Mandy delivers a wide variety of activities for small groups and individuals aimed at reducing stress, depression, anxiety, and loneliness, such as yoga, Qi gong, meditation, relaxation, chair yoga and breathing exercises.
As a trained counsellor, Mandy can provide up to 10 hours a month of one-to-one meaningful chats for each resident. These chats are tailored to the individual’s needs, with Mandy supporting them to set their own pace.
Through these sessions and chats, we offer a range of therapeutic tools to help customers improve their mental wellbeing and overall health, to develop coping mechanisms for issues including anger and substance misuse withdrawal, and to support their recovery journey away from homelessness.
The sessions have grown in popularity since they first began, with around 20 residents now taking part weekly after word of mouth between customers led to widespread interest in Mandy’s approach.
Mental health issues are more prevalent for those within the homeless community than the general population, with charity Crisis reporting that 8 out of 10 rough sleepers have a mental health diagnosis.
Poor mental wellbeing can be both a cause and consequence of experiencing homelessness, which is why we are pleased to offer counselling, advice, meditation therapy and much more in these group and one-to-one sessions.
Residents have also attended group sessions where they have practiced talking therapy; sharing emotions and experiences and, guided by Mandy, learning to observe and understand these feelings and how best to manage them without relying on their long term, often negative, approaches. Residents have said they have found these really helpful, and they often lead to further discussions together once the sessions have ended.
We had initially envisioned that Mandy would offer a set programme for residents comprising of group yoga followed by group meditation.
However, due to the complex needs of residents, it quickly became evident that it would work better to take a less structured approach, focusing more on the needs of each individual and listening to customers, who have helped shaped the programme based on what they want to get out of it.
Speaking about the experience, specialist Mandy Sellars said: “It was much better to just connect and build a relationship with the residents as much as I could, let them know when I was in and offer an open, welcoming space for them to come and see me and decide together how they would like to spend that time.
“I think this element of co-production has been a very successful and valuable in not only ensuring customers are benefiting from the sessions and developing trust, but that they continue to engage with the support both myself and the team at Newbury House provide.”
Nigel Finnigan, Service Manager at Newbury House, said: “The support team have noticed the remarkable impact these sessions have had on our customers’ wellbeing and how it’s led to people becoming more open to engaging in support and making personal progress.
“In some cases, our support staff have attended the sessions, which has really helped foster more positive, trusting and open relationships between them and our residents. It’s also provided opportunities for residents to get to know each other better and become supportive of one another, which is wonderful to see.”
We’re also delighted that dispersed Newbury House residents, who we have supported to move into their own homes, have returned to join these wellbeing sessions.
When they do, it is always a great opportunity for the team to check in with them, help build further trust and maintain supportive relationships. This was an unanticipated, but certainly welcomed, additional benefit and more than what we originally imagined weekly classes would have provided.
We’d like to thank Mandy for her flexibility in tailoring her approach which has enabled this, alongside the Newbury House team for working in such a responsive and reflexive way to ensure residents benefited from Mandy’s services.
One dispersed housing resident in particular suffers with extreme anxiety about leaving the house, but despite this has always felt motivated to leave their new self-contained property and return to Newbury House to attend meditation class every week since Mandy started in October 2021.
We have noticed a significant improvement in this individual’s anxiety and mental health, which is hugely beneficial to their general wellbeing. They said: “After the meditation class, I feel more at ease and set up for the day, so I can make plans to do things on a Tuesday. The weekly visits to the scheme have made me feel more confident and able to reach out to staff more.”
This illustrates the beginning of Newbury House becoming more than the first step location for those who have experienced homelessness, that it has become a hub where residents living in our move on properties can come to us for more than the traditional support that has always been provided.
We want to thank charity Church Homeless Trust who had been keen to fund these sessions, feeling they would be ‘an innovative and useful service for our residents’ – which we have certainly found to be true!
To find out more about how Riverside are working to end homelessness, visit www.riverside.org.uk