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Charity’s pilot scheme helped young men go ‘from struggle to strength’

Increased stability: members of the Transitional Community Services team are, from left, Gavin Smith, leadership coach, Aruna Dismont, programme resource manager, Vinu Clay, operations administrator and Tiffanne Thomas, executive director (File photograph)

Young men who were part of a programme to boost their skills and opportunities found greater stability compared to a year earlier, a charity reported.

Transitional Community Services highlighted that its members went “from struggle to strength” as they dealt with challenges over a busy 12 months.

Its annual report also showed a range of outcomes such as improved employment and housing.

A Community Bridge Builders programme that includes coaching, counselling and workplace support was launched in February 2021 as a 12-month pilot scheme.

The report said: “During this fiscal year we have continued to work to refine and strengthen our design to meet the unique, yet extremely complex needs of the men who are a part of our programme.”

TCS works with men aged 18 to 34 and uses a self-sufficiency index to help understand members’ risks and vulnerabilities.

In the past fiscal year – June 1 to May 31 – it had 30 referrals and 18 took part in the bridge builders programme.

Leadership coaches make contact with the men an average of 430 times a month.

Housing instability among TCS members was said to have dropped from 59 to 39 per cent between 2020-21 and 2021-22, with food insecurity levels down from 47 to 40 per cent.

Members’ unemployment rates changed from 59 to 50 per cent while underemployment went from 24 to 11 per cent.

The report said: “Our data seems to indicate that the support and interventions provided through our Community Bridge Builders programme appear to have a positive impact on our members.

“The data suggests that those who engage in the Community Bridge Builders programme experience increased stability.

“This is noteworthy, because increased stability will lead to lower risks and an enhanced quality of life.”

Highlights included the experience of a 30-year-old who wanted improved employment to support himself and his children.

The report said: “He was a kitchen porter but struggled with being able to work on bettering his career because of his work hours.

“He ended up getting fired from his job due to how he handled communication when he was stressed … he was able to secure temporary work through our community partners to hold him while we worked together on his next employment.

“Although we are reporting up until June, as of mid-November, he is currently full-time employed at a place where he feels he is treated better, and makes more money.”

Another young man, identified as OB, lost both of his biological parents within two years of starting high school, which left him struggling to complete assignments or even to show up for classes.

The report said: “It also meant a loss of hope, focus, and people in his corner whom he could trust to challenge him to pursue his dreams.

“This is when OB was first introduced to TCS. How that school year ended was with OB being highlighted as the most improved student during his graduation ceremony.

“Since then TCS has become a second home and resource connector for OB, assisting him with discovering and developing community connections, work, training and educational opportunities, and a positive space for him to feel safe and appreciated.

“OB is now a young man who is opening up more and more, and who for the first time is excited for tertiary education, and actively planning towards a career in athletics in the UK.”

The report highlighted the case of LM, a “high-functioning person on the autism spectrum” who struggled in “an increasingly complex world with little to no tolerance for differently-abled people”.

It said: “The leadership coach of LM has been able to help him to navigate several work opportunities; identified a transformative strategy for him to live independently; connected LM to ASD [autism spectrum disorder] charity Tomorrow’s Voices for further support; as well as helped him to connect to other young adults on the spectrum for the first time.

“In addition to this, the TCS membership and third space has enabled LM to connect and build relationships with ‘neurotypical’ peers in an inclusive way that he has not experienced before.”

Young men in support programme had ʽsignificant trauma histories’

The Transitional Community Services annual report for 2021-22 said that its members’ risk levels and vulnerabilities “were fluid, and often changed quite rapidly”.

Use of a self-sufficiency index was increased to keep track of the young men’s circumstances.

The report said: “Overwhelmingly, many of our members present with significant trauma histories, dating from childhood.

“For our members, these experiences remain unresolved.

“Research has widely established the risks of unresolved trauma, and our experiences with our members is consistent with what the research has found.

“Our members demonstrate a significant level of mistrust, have a history of demonstrating difficulty forming healthy relationships and often times engage in what could be viewed as high risks behaviours.

“However, we know that all behaviour has a meaning, and all behaviour meets a need.

“At TCS we have worked hard to create a space where our members feel safe, supported and connected to a community.”

The charity found that 40 per cent of its members were treated by services overseas when they were children and that all of those people returned to the island at 18.

Of those, none came back with a GED credential and 87 per cent – who had no history of involvement with the law before they left – had “legal problems after returning”.

The figures also showed that 10 per cent of members were the second generation in their family to receive support from authorities as children.

In her executive director’s statement, Tiffanne Thomas said: “Our team has been steadfast in their unwavering commitment to the vision of TCS.

“To this end they passionately and unapologetically advocated for the men we serve.”

She wrote: “On a daily basis we are humbled by the experiences of the men we serve, and are equally humbled that they trust us to be a part of their individual journeys.

“At TCS, we have intentionally worked to create a sense of community, and for many of our men, it is the first place where they feel a true sense of belonging, and a true sense of safety.

“We have continued to be amazed by the many talents and strengths of our men.

“Despite their individual risks and vulnerabilities, they are extremely resourceful and resolute.

“We have celebrated their successes with them, and have pushed them during times of setback.”

Dr Thomas, who thanked TCS staff Aruna Dismont, Cheyra Bell, Gavin Smith and Vinu Clay, added: “Our members have come to rely on the non-judgemental, unconditional support that they have gotten from TCS.

“Historically, our men have struggled to find ‘their place’ in the world, and we have watched them slowly start to demonstrate increased confidence and awareness that their experiences matter, and their voices have value.”

TCS member outcomes

The annual report for 2021-22 from Transitional Community Services showed how young men are changing their lives.

Among the achievements, it highlighted BJ, who started with TCS “reluctantly, and in connection to having ongoing challenges with the constraints of mandated court services and Mental Health Treatment Court”.

The report said: “BJ was struggling with alcohol addiction, and cannabis use to self-medicate his previously undiagnosed depression and anxiety.

“These issues, alongside homelessness, fractured family relationships, unemployment, and being caught up in the legal system since he was young, left BJ feeling unheard, unseen and unsupported.

“BJ had a fundamental distrust and reluctance to participate with ‘the system’ and the court services programme fully before joining TCS.

“Through the support of his LC [leadership coach] and TCS team, and working alongside his court services and MWI [Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute] case workers, BJ has graduated from the Mental Health Court Programme; gone from homeless to having his own place; remains committed to his sobriety; and continues to adhere to his mental health medication regimen.

“Also, through the TCS Skills Development Opportunity, BJ has become a standout successful day labourer, getting the necessary skills and support to pave the way towards full time employment.

“Recently, through the generosity of a TCS donor, BJ was celebrated for his success with the awarding of his first brand new phone, a vital tool to help him on his journey towards even more success.”

Also featured was QT, who had “languished in obscurity for several years post-high school, with little direction or focus, and a family fed-up with his inaction, and too overwhelmed to support him any further”.

The report said that the young man referred himself to the TCS Community Bridge Builders programme after seeing the benefits it had on others.

It added that thanks to the support “QT has found his way”.

The report said: “From living on the street or a couch, and relying on food programmes and friends regularly, QT has successfully completed his initial training with a local mobile company and now has a multiyear professional development contract and a foundation towards a long-term career in telecommunications.

“He still stops by occasionally and, though his smile and energy are a miss, he’s a great example of a successful TCS member.”

To read the report in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.

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Published December 29, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated December 29, 2022 at 7:50 am)

Charity’s pilot scheme helped young men go ‘from struggle to strength’

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