People being supported by The Wallich across Denbighshire are heading into the wilds of Wales for an eight-week, mountain themed, personal development programme.
Over those weeks, the participants will walk and climb some of Snowdonia’s finest mountains.
Anyone who has spent time in wild places knows that time spent out there is so much more than ‘just a walk’. And that got me thinking…
Supporting people out of homelessness is a bit like climbing a mountain
For many people, the ultimate goal (or summit) is a safe place to live. But to reach that, there is a journey that everyone must take. Everyone’s journey is different and can be filled with any number of obstacles or barriers. But none are insurmountable.
When walking a mountain, we might find ourselves turning back before we reach the summit, because of; changing weather, finding ourselves poorly equipped for the terrain, or sometimes through feeling we lack the experience / expertise to navigate safely.
Finding a way out of homelessness isn’t that different, with the path out just as prone to changes and challenges.
If I were to ask: what do you think homelessness services do, what would you say?
If you said help people find a home, you’d be right.
If you said give people a bed for a night (or longer), you’d be right.
If you said offering provisions like sleeping bags and food, you’d be right.
But what if I told you that we also provide:
Supporting people out of homelessness isn’t just about finding that person a home, it’s also, and often more importantly, about making sure that we address whatever led them toward homelessness in the first place.
Support could be helping them identify healthy relationships, so they don’t again fall prey to cuckooing or abuse.
It could be improving the way they feel about themselves, so they don’t again shut themselves away.
It could be getting paid work, to ease money woes and find a sense of purpose.
Sometimes, it’s about giving someone something to look forward to, to allow them some breathing space and something positive to think about.
It allows people to momentarily take a breather from thoughts about their place waiting on the housing register, or how much longer they must wait until they can see a specialist about their mental health.
The therapeutic value of time in nature is no secret. With the impact of the various lockdowns, giving people time outside was one of the few priorities given to people in the UK, and we all had to learn to appreciate the green spaces near our homes.
We each take something different from our time outdoors. A few years ago, I went into the Brecon Beacons with some people involved in The Wallich services.
There was a conversation on that day that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. It was with a man who’s only place to sleep was never guaranteed through an emergency bed service and was also on a prescription for a heroin addiction.
He said, as we were walking off Fan Brycheiniog, toward the wild and wind-swept waters of Llyn Y Fan Fawr:
Imagine carrying that weight around with you?
Many of the people involved in our services will have experienced trauma in their lives. This could be through witnessing domestic violence as children, having parents with alcohol or substance misuse issues or being a victim of childhood abuse.
It is sometimes the impact of this trauma that leads people toward mental ill health, addiction, abusive relationships or offending.
Our support is tailored to recognise those histories and lessen the negative impact it can have on their present.
The mountain-based personal development programme aims to do just that.
Each of the 8 sessions on offer to our service users will importantly involve a psychotherapist.
Each activity and route is designed to challenge and improve on the previous week. Everyone taking part will learn how to look after themselves in the mountains, how to safe and warm, how to navigate.
Participants will learn exciting new skills like how to fit a harness, how to tie a figure of eight, how to belay, how to pick a route, and how to overcome the anxiousness that comes with being somewhere new and trying something different.
The programme will help people build strength – both physical and mental. It will help people realise they’re worth more than a label. It will help in ways that we can’t predict. But it will help.
As with any new, innovative solution to support people who have experienced homelessness, it does come at a cost.
Thankfully, owing to some supportive local authorities across North Wales, a great local mountain leader, a lovely psychotherapist who specialises in outdoor therapies, plus with backing from Outdoors Magic, Webtogs and Joe Browns, we’ve put together an incredible opportunity to help people on a journey, not just into the mountains, but to a place where they feel more equipped to cope with the challenges life brings.
We can’t wait to hear all about the adventures and breakthroughs that come out of the programme.
If you could help us provide exciting wellbeing opportunities for the people we support across Wales, we’d love to hear from you.
This initiative is only being made possible by the support of a group of local authorities and businesses.
The local authority has provided The Wallich with additional funding to put on this mountain-based personal development programme. It has has also funded a separate group for people involved in other services across the county.
Our Mountain Leader and Climbing Instructor offers a range of services, from guided walking to navigation and mountain skills courses, plus indoor and outdoor climbing days.
He is fully qualified and insured to provide these services. He provides friendly, patient and enjoyable experiences for everyone.
Belinda supports each session. She will be leading a variety of mindfulness sessions and bitesize coping skills activities. She is a registered member of the British Association for Counsellors & Psychotherapists (MBACP).
Belinda is also a qualified Walk Leader and holds the Lowland Leader Award with the Mountain Training Association (MTA member).
As a Mindfulness Teacher, she trained to teach Mindfulness with the Bangor Centre for Mindfulness Research & Practice (CMRP) and is also a trained Voice Coach.
With its inception in 1999, Outdoors Magic became on the world’s first websites devoted to covering outdoor pursuits and to this day it serves information and inspiration to a global audience of hikers, trail runners, bikepackers and general outdoor enthusiasts.
Outdoors Magic have donated a range of quality outdoor kit, which will help keep people warm, dry and safe when out in the mountains.
A specialist outdoor equipment store, specialising in hill walking, backpacking, climbing and camping.
The store incentivises their customers to bring in usable outdoor kit, in exchange for a discounts on new items.
The preloved kit is going to be donated to our participants at the end of each mountain programme, to enable them to continue their journey toward wellbeing in the mountains.
An online retailer selling the finest range of technical outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment from across more than 50 industry leading brands.
Sustainability is at the heart of everything they do and they plant a tree for every order made.
Webtogs has donated us a range of quality outdoor kit, which will help keep participants warm, dry and safe when out in the mountains.