This project was informed by the learning from phase one of the project which focused on the perceptions of and approaches to, innovation in homelessness prevention in Scotland. Lived experience and peer support were strong themes across the ‘take home messages’ from phase one and so phase two was designed to further explore aspects of peer approaches in homelessness.
What is a peer?
‘Peers are people who are equal to one another in terms of status, power, position, and to a lesser extent, background and experiences.’ (Groundswell)
What is peer support?
‘In it’s most natural form, peer support is simply support exchanged between people who share something in common…’ (Mind, 2013)
What are peer based interventions?
‘These aim to recruit and train people on the basis of sharing the same or similar characteristics as the target community, often with the aim of reducing communication barriers, improving support mechanisms and social connections. In the UK peer methods have been applied across a range of health issues, for example community based smoking cessation (Springett, Owens & Callaghan, 2007), and self management of long term conditions (Bakski et al, 2008), and with marginalised groups such as sex workers (Ziersch, Gaffney & Tomlinson, 2000), and people experiencing homelessness (Hunter & Power, 2002).
Although all peer approaches aim to tap into the social influence of people who share similar experiences or characteristics, peer education focuses on teaching and communication of health information, values and behaviours between individuals (Milburn, 1995). Peer mentoring involves one-to-one relationships that model and support positive behaviour (Finnegan, Whitehurst & Deaton, 2010) and peer support involves providing positive social support and helping buffer against stressors (Dennis, 2003). There is a clear link between peer support roles and mutual aid interventions that aim to encourage self help and create supportive networks.” (Public Health England, 2015)
For the purposes of this project, a peer approach refers to ‘activities designed, led or delivered by people who have a personal experience of homelessness.’ (Groundswell)
What makes peer support unique?
‘A peer is in a unique position to offer support by virtue of relevant experience: he or she has ‘been there, done that’ and can relate to others who are now in a similar situation. Because of their personal experience, peer workers and / or peer supporters have expertise and real world knowledge that professionals training cannot replicate.’ (FEANTSA, 2015)