How do we build resilience in to clients recovering from homelessness and substance misuse?

In one of our recent housing team meetings, we had an ex-client attend as a guest speaker.  Claire* spoke eloquently of conquering her addiction and making a new life for herself that she could never have imagined before engaging with Ara.  When she told us the single best thing that we had done to contribute to her sustained recovery, it came as a bit of a shock.

It was her Ara support worker teaching her how to make a shepherd’s pie.

It wasn’t helping her with her benefits, or support with keeping shared care appointments.  Nor was it providing a safe and clean property for her to recover in.  It was the simple act of teaching her a life-skill that helped her on to the first rung of self-sufficiency.

It’s easy to take such small-seeming acts of nurturing for granted, but for people who have been socially excluded, the passing on of practical knowledge like how to cook for yourself can be invaluable.  Once Claire had one recipe under her belt, she learned a few more – then suddenly she could cook for herself, and wasn’t reliant on takeaways or sporadic, unhealthy eating.  More satisfying than the money or health benefits was the independence she suddenly had.

This is just one example that highlights Ara’s approach to building resilience (he capacity to recover quickly from difficulties).  Our clients have a range of histories but most have had difficult lives, often experiencing compound trauma and mental health challenges that have led them to substance misuse and homelessness.  Getting the right help to overcome drug and alcohol abuse and engaging with mental health services is important, but vital to enduring recovery is making sure that our clients are supported to learn new skills as part of their journey.  We will all face adversity in our lives – by ensuring that our clients have the tools to face this adversity and continue, we lift people out of the cycle of drugs, alcohol, and homelessness.

This is our approach at Ara.  I could not be prouder of our Housing team; each and every worker is focused on the individual in front of them and what they need to reach their goals.  They build trust-based relationships with each of our clients, and help them to reach their own life goals – not goals thrust upon them by society.  To learn more about how we hold the hope for vulnerable people in the city and beyond, get in touch at  Because we are all capable of recovery – like the Japanese proverb says: “Fall seven times, stand up eight”.

*some names have been changed

Robbie Thornhill Chief Operating Officer for Ara

Robbie joined ARA as Chief Operating Officer after a career as a management consultant. He is passionate about promoting recovery and ending homelessness, and is proud to represent a vibrant, diverse, and forward-thinking charity like Ara.