Through the Gate team keeps John off the streets

John* was released from prison homeless, only £2 in his pocket, and with just the clothes on his back following being completing a two-week ‘recall’ sentence after committing shop theft.

The 32-year-old is supervised on licence from custody by the Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (HLNY CRC).

John, from Hull, had served a custodial sentence for similar crimes which he carries out to fund his drug habit. John is addicted to Valium and has a long criminal record. After being released after completing his custodial sentence, because he re-offended he was recalled to prison for 14-days.

HLNY CRC only received notice of John leaving prison a matter of hours before he walked out of the prison gates.

Interserve launched its Integrated Through the Gate (ITTG) approach to supporting people in prison after winning a grant from the Ministry of Justice. The ITTG work with prisoners to prepare them for release and provide continuity of support by continuing that work post release.

Karen Stefanovic, probation case manager, is one of half-a-dozen staff in HLNY CRC’s ITTG team. Because of her intimate knowledge of working with people preparing for release from prison she was able to secure a bed for John, and helped him: make a universal credit claim, receive a food parcel, get a mobile ‘phone and begin his period on probation.

Karen said: “We had four men released in September who were homeless, it generally averages one a week. It’s tough to provide the wrap-around support that’s necessary to give someone a fighting chance when you literally only have a matter of hours to put that provision together.

“All the evidence shows, and our experience reinforces the fact, that the first 48-hours after being released are the toughest. That’s the period during which people return to the lifestyles they know or make concrete steps towards positive change. It’s our job to support them to make the right choices.

“To hit the streets with £2, second-hand clothes from the prison and without a bed for the night is setting them up to fail. That’s why our team’s work is absolutely critical.”

Prisoners released after completing their custodial sentence are entitled to a discharge grant of £46, but those released following recall are ineligible for the grant.

Karen said: “Before COVID-19 we developed strong links inside the prison and would meet with our service users before they were released to begin to understand their needs, what agencies we’d need to tie them in with and what their accommodation prospects look like.

“The pandemic has made it tougher, but we are still able to talk over the ‘phone and begin to prepare people for release so they can have a package of support in place to give them a chance.

“I met John at the gates, gave him more clothes and a food parcel, and got him into an excellent supported accommodation. ITTG delivers a critical service and I’m extremely proud of the work we do.”

*John is not the service user’s real name.