The Don’t Give Up On Us! comic expresses the views of young people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness from Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh. We discovered from our early conversations with the young people that there was significant room for improvement in services and practitioners’ approach.
Current research at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, along with a knowledge exchange programme on youth homelessness ‘Helping Young people Feel at Home in Scotland’ funded by the Scottish Universities Insight Institute, has identified a need to incorporate all young people’s needs and aspirations into a more integrated support.
During this project, we created an opportunity for people in different fields and young people with living and lived experience of homelessness to come together and share views, feelings, and practices on how to achieve better collaboration and service delivery.
Our aims in this project were:
i) To share research evidence on youth homelessness linked with health and social inequalities;
ii) To collect experiences from young people to identify key elements of service provision they find are essential;
iii) To bring together practitioners from different sectors, academics, and policy makers to reflect upon the existing governmental and services initiatives to achieve better collaboration, engagement, and service delivery.
One of the outcomes of this knowledge exchange programme is the creation of the Don’t Give Up On Us! comic, which illustrates various perspectives on the barriers to accessing services and engaging with practitioners. The first part showcases the perspectives of young people when sharing their experiences related to homelessness and the support they have received. The second part represents the perceptions of practitioners from different fields regarding the challenges posed when working with young people. In the last part of the comic the young people and the practitioners come together in a workshop to share their views, build trust, and reflect on best practice for the future.
The comic is based on the lessons learnt by all involved during the three main events. These events included keynote speakers, group discussions, drama, and cultural activities (Theatre of the Oppressed, Capoeira, Live Music) and art production (graffiti and post cards). In addition, seven consultations were carried out in youth services based in Dundee and Edinburgh. The workshops discussed how services and practitioners could engage more with young people and sustain these relationships with them. The experiences of the youth participants and practitioners fed into a final report, and these consultations formed the basis of the scenarios and characters depicted in the comic.
This comic is part of a training package, addressed to those working (or desiring to work) with young people and adults experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless, from third sector organisations, primary and secondary schools, and health boards. The comic is designed to pose questions about the experiences of receiving and delivering services, and it is hoped that young people and practitioners will use it to start conversations about health, about life in general and the multiple challenges we all face in trying to reduce, and eventually eliminate, youth homelessness.
Dr. Andrea Rodriguez
Lecturer in Dental Public Health and Public Engagement School Lead
School of Dentistry, University of Dundee