At Emmaus Bristol, we are working towards becoming a trauma-informed organisation. Read the blog post below written by our Support Manager Fran Blishen to find out more.

What is a trauma-informed approach?

Being trauma-informed is a way to support people without retriggering previous trauma or ongoing trauma that they are experiencing. The approach we aim to take engenders safety, trust, collaboration, harm reduction, choice, being strengths-based, and aiming towards self-empowerment.

Trauma can be the result of so many things, from an incident, accident, childhood experience, ongoing prejudice, war, racism, violence, homophobia, exclusion, bullying, ridicule and so much more.

Trauma is ‘any event or duration of an experience that prevents us from developing and coping in the present.’ Sadly, 75% of people who have experienced homelessness have also experienced trauma and for those with dependencies, the stats are much higher at 85%.

Trauma and homelessness

Trauma can both lead to homelessness and be a result of homelessness. It is crucial that Emmaus Bristol promotes a culture of compassion and understanding for those who have experienced trauma and who are struggling with the effects.

Some people may experience post-traumatic stress disorder and for others, it may be withdrawal from society, mental health symptoms or dependencies they have used to cope with the pain and memories.

Instead of seeing trauma-induced behaviours as a chosen path by an individual, we can start to understand where these behaviours may have originated. Studies have shown that for every negative childhood experience, substance use increases later in life, and conversely for every positive in a child’s life, the risks are reduced.

This may all sound simplistic but being trauma-informed works. It may not ‘cure’ a person from trauma, but what it does do is allow an individual to experience ‘unconditional positive regard’; a starting point of respect; a safe space to regather strength and wellbeing.

How will a trauma-informed approach change Emmaus Bristol?

Being trauma-informed allows us to be curious, rather than judgmental. It will change the way we work, including policies, procedures and more, so that we are using written and spoken language that works ‘with’ companions and not ‘for’ companions.

Eventually, it will extend to staff, trustees, volunteers and more. So far, Emmaus Bristol staff have undertaken training and this will be brought to the companion team and then to trustees.

Most importantly, this is not a quick fix. There will be self-reflection and bags of humility, as we nudge our way forward to a better way of living and working.