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Joanna Kowalski

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Joanna Kowalski

Job description: communications and marketing manager at Richmond Fellowship

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Areas of interest: Mental health and wellbeing

Joanna Kowalski's Recent Activity

"At Richmond Fellowship we’re well aware of the link between homelessness and mental health, which cuts both ways. We run a number of services that are providing increasingly more specialist mental wellbeing support to deal with the issues that are related to homelessness. An example is our complex needs homeless service which forms part of our Durham and Darlington floating support service. Around 60% of the people we work with through this service have diagnosed mental health issues. If we took into account undiagnosed mental health issues then this figure would be much higher. We pick up referrals from people with multiple issues and chaotic lifestyles as well as homelessness or the risk of homelessness. Some of the people we help are street homeless but a lot are ‘sofa surfing’ or in temporary accommodation. Women are rarely street homeless but often have greater and certainly different needs and the impact of the current welfare reforms is starting to affect our client group. Women we’ve worked with or currently work with have a range of presenting issues such as domestic violence, substance misuse, children at risk, offending behaviour and alcohol issues. To illustrate the complexity of the cases we manage, here is Sally’s story [not her real name]: “Sally is 25 and originally from Dorset. She moved to Darlington after being abused by her ex-partner. She was suffering from depression and had previously taken an overdose which resulted in hospitalisation. She arrived in Darlington with no social networks, no family and only a bond agreed by the council. She had no income, had used up any savings and was unable to pay the rent. She was facing eviction and had no alternative accommodation. She came to Richmond Fellowship’s homelessness service after visiting her GP. We established and provided support, daily initially and for as long as required, using the specialist skills held within the team. We contacted the Darlington Domestic Violence Unit after the potential arose that her ex-partner was aware of where she was now living. We created a link with the local police and they assisted with security devices for her windows and doors. We supported her to change to another bank account to make her financial footprint less traceable and signposted her to Victim Support who helped her make a criminal injuries compensation claim regarding her trauma at the hands of her ex-partner. We helped Sally access counselling and sign up to the Freedom Programme for victims of domestic abuse. We also supported her with sorting out her finances and with finding a job. Unfortunately, Sally was injured in a serious car accident which also wrote off her car. As she had no other support networks, family or friends, she contacted the Richmond Fellowship team from her hospital bed. We liaised with the police, insurance companies and rescue services, reclaimed belongings from the car and supported her through her physical recovery. Without access to our service, Sally would have had no other means of resolving these problems. Because she could not work while she was injured we helped her claim SSP and housing and council tax benefit. She had to access food from food banks and struggled to meet her rent and utility bills. She was then unable to continue to work at this point as she had no means of transport to carry out her role. However, thanks to the support she had received from Richmond Fellowship she felt more confident and safe to relocate back to Dorset where she could be supported by her family and where other job opportunities opened up. We supported her with her move back and ensured she was in touch with the local domestic abuse service and Freedom Programme so she could get ongoing support if she needed it. We will contact Sally again in six months to see how she is getting on.” For more information visit our website at: www.richmondfellowship.org.uk"
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