We have a sign displayed prominently at the entrance to our properties which clearly states our attitude to anti-social behaviour, and this is sometimes picked up on by visitors.
It has been commented upon by some that we must not be able to enforce this stance in practice as this kind of behaviour is inevitable when it comes to dealing with people with high support needs.
Anti-social behaviour is defined in law as “behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to persons not of the same household as the person”, and these resulting harms – harassment, alarm and distress – are exactly the kind of thing that we work to shield our residents from.
The same goes for members of staff, volunteers, partners, and the local community who all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect in their homes and workplace without being exposed to harm.
We take community safety very seriously; our security team make regular patrols of the local area and we are also active members of the Safer St Austell partnership meaning that we are at the forefront of decision making to protect the community.
We often accept referrals from individuals that would not be admitted anywhere else as we believe that the person-centred support that we offer as well as our extensive safeguarding measures can help those with even the most entrenched chaotic behaviours.
Our clients therefore often have a range of different complex needs which can result in unpredictable behaviours and coping mechanisms, which our staff are equipped to deal with and support on, but anti-social behaviour in the extreme is something which we cannot tolerate.
Due to this, we have a rigorous protocol for dealing with any cases of this that we come across which aims at offering protection to residents, staff and the local community, as well as creating a safe and nurturing environment for people to live and work in.
Any cases of intimidation or assault are taken incredibly seriously and depending on severity can lead to a period of suspension or an immediate eviction.
As a landlord, eviction is the only power that we have, and so other than calling the police and passing along any details that we have collected, eviction is the only measure that we are able to take when faced with behaviours which do not align with our values and regulations.
It is a measure that we believe is important for the wellbeing and safety of all on site including external practitioners such as paramedics and the police, and fortunately it is something that we do not often have to implement.
However, in the rare cases that we do deem that it is necessary to take action, the safety and wellbeing of those in our care is always put first and we do not hesitate to ensure that the threat is removed.
We firmly believe that this is the right thing to do as nobody should have to deal with abuse of any kind, particularly our support workers who deserve a safe environment to work in.
We have had the privilege to speak with many members of the police and NHS frontline staff at recent events such as Blue Light Days and were shocked at the level of abuse that their staff often face.
This sort of treatment of professionals not only prevents them from doing their jobs, but is also damaging to individual wellbeing and security, and the prevalence of this behaviour across the sector necessitates a firm stance on tackling it.
While our strong stance does help to create a safe community and work place, it also raises issues with what happens next to the individual in question who faces suspension or eviction.
As we are often a last resort for individuals who may otherwise be pushed into rough sleeping, eviction not a measure we use lightly, and all efforts will be made to pursue other interventions if at all possible.
Wherever possible we liaise with other organisations, from the police to the night shelters, to find an appropriate next step for those who are not suited to the environment that we offer.
Anti-social behaviour presents a complex issue, as instances of harassment or intimidation obviously cannot be tolerated, but at the same time those exhibiting these behaviours are often dealing with personal struggles of their own and need help and support to overcome them.
We will never let cases of anti-social behaviour go unreprimanded and are glad to have the support of the police and an entire network of homeless agencies and support groups to ensure that all parties involved receive the help that they need.