A week in the life of a Homeless Support Officer
Overalls at the ready, I started my shift painting a new 3-bed offsite flat ready for a family to move in. We are seeing a steep increase in families needing Temporary Accommodation, and the team works tirelessly to make sure properties are in good condition and ready to re-let as quickly as possible. This involves coordinating furniture deliveries, flooring installation, organizing repairs and, you guessed it, painting!
After a quick brew and some lunch, I met the team back at Strathclyde for our meeting. We refused to be hit by Blue Monday and began with some weekly reflections and our aims for this year. We all agreed to try not to sweat the small stuff. Within our role, we are often faced with the unpredictable, and the power of a positive mindset cannot be underestimated!
The rest of the meeting focused on feeding back updates from Stockport Homes. There was a focus on the impact of damp and mould in our customers’ homes, and our role in ensuring it is reported and treated as soon as possible.
We spent some time discussing our own examples of delivering excellent customer service. From supporting someone to attend an important doctor’s appointment, to cooking a delicious hot meal for our residents. Supporting our customers is at the heart of what we do, and I feel so lucky to work in a role where I can make even the smallest difference.
I ended my Monday with some excellent news for one of our customers, who had been waiting for their biometric card for ten months. FINALLY, IT HAD ARRIVED! Her support worker, Meg, had worked tirelessly to get this delivered, and we are so happy our customer can finally open a bank account and begin rebuilding her life.
BLUE MONDAY?? I don’t think so.
My Tuesday began bright and early at 8am. I was on the early shift, taking over from our overnight security and setting up for the day. It had been a drama-free Monday night, thankfully, meaning I was able to get on with morning duties straight away. I crept around the building to complete building checks, trying not to let the fire doors slam as I go (let’s be honest, who appreciates door slamming at 8am in the morning?).
Back to the office, kettle on and I was ready to complete our daily contacts spreadsheet. This details all interactions we have with our customers, however big or small. This means the team can keep updated with their caseload and keep an eye on those we know are struggling.
Today was an exciting day for a lady on my caseload. She had been struggling to manage to live independently, and I had been working closely with her social worker and her CPN to help create a plan for her moving forward. We managed to get her a place at an assisted living facility, and today was the day I was taking her for a tour. Understandably, she was anxious. We met there together, and she was instantly put at ease by the friendly nature of the staff, not to mention the pool table in the lounge! I was so happy to be a part of making this happen for her. When leaving Temporary Accommodation, there is no one rule fits all and we work closely with other agencies to ensure our residents move on to the right place for them.
Halfway through the week! I was back on the early shift before returning to the offsite flat we’d finished painting on Monday for one final clean. The family would be moving in today, leaving their previous flat open for new customers to move in.
With temperatures below freezing, we have a duty to ensure we can provide emergency accommodation for anyone experiencing homelessness, as cold weather can be fatal. This provision is led by our ABEN Co-ordinator, Holly. Holly’s role involves liaising with the housing options team and rough sleeper outreach workers to provide a bed space for any known rough sleeper in the borough. Once assessed and placed under the ABEN scheme, Holly provides them with bedding, toiletries and food to make sure they have everything they need to be comfortable while using the ABEN space. Holly also supports these customers to provide essential documentation that is needed to allow them to access our temporary accommodation service. These documents include proof of income, bank statements and identification. Support is also offered to customers to access other services such as mental health services, drug and alcohol support or adult social care as well as ensuring each customer is registered with a GP so they are able to address their physical health needs. Holly plays such an important role in keeping TA running efficiently, we couldn’t do it without her!
I was lucky enough to spend part of my afternoon supporting a bowling trip with some of our residents from the men’s hostel. This was led by our amazing engagement officer, Amy, who coordinates fun activities to build confidence and provide respite for our customers experiencing homelessness. We had an ace time, and I was able to practice the power of a positive mindset as I didn’t manage to hit a single bowling pin…
I returned to the office later that afternoon in time for our daily handover. We spent time going through our ‘daily contacts’ sheet and updating each other on every customer we support at Strathclyde. This is one of the most important parts of the day, giving us time to work together as a team to help resolve any issues our customers are having, as well as discuss any safeguarding concerns. I really treasure this time with my colleagues. Today’s handover was particularly enjoyable as it was accompanied by some delicious donuts bought by our incredible manager, Ellie. They were gone within seconds!
Thursday’s child has far to go. This couldn’t be truer as I spent Thursday morning visiting our offsite flats around Stockport for our Health and Safety checks. These are completed monthly and involve checking properties to ensure they are safe for our customers to live in. This includes checking electrics, checking fire alarms, reporting repairs, and supporting customers to ensure they are keeping their flats as clean and tidy as possible. I really enjoy this time connecting with our customers as we tend to see less of them than those who live onsite at Strathclyde House. It is a great way to catch up and see how they are managing.
I returned that afternoon for a weekly one-to-one appointment with one of the new residents on my caseload. This first meeting gives me a chance to get to know the customer, see how they are settling in and create a support plan together. We spent the first half of our session discussing rehousing options, which differ from one customer to the next. This customer was able to bid on Stockport Homes properties or look at privately rented accommodation as an option. With private renting costs at an all-time high, this customer said they would prefer to bid for a property with Stockport Homes. We then looked at a support plan. Support plans are vital for our residents in Temporary Accommodation and can be customized for each person based on their individual needs. This customer wanted support registering for their GP and expressed an interest in arts and crafts. Together, we filled out an online registration form for the GP and discussed the role of our engagement officer, Amy, and the weekly art sessions she runs at Strathclyde. They were so happy to have something to look forward to!
We made it to Friday! After a restful morning, I arrived at Strathclyde at 2pm. I was on the late shift and would finish at 10pm.
I started the day by meeting the team for our daily handover. This is particularly helpful for the person on the late shift as they can catch up on the events of the day and hit the ground running… or if you had a big lunch like me... walking with purpose.
The afternoon tasks involved cleaning one of our onsite rooms, meeting a customer for a weekly one-to-one, and catching up with some paperwork. With the afternoon complete and colleagues off home, I hunkered down for the rest of my late shift.
Each late shift is different depending on what is happening on scheme, and tonight involved a mixture of tasks. I spent some time booking a new resident into one of our vacant rooms. Temporary Accommodation is a last resort for our customers, so we try to make the process of booking in as welcoming as possible. This involves introducing ourselves, showing them the building and their room, signing tenancy agreements, and providing any immediate support someone may need, even if it’s just a cup of tea and a friendly chat!
The rest of the evening involved some admin tasks, cleaning the office, completing evening building checks and handing over to security, who arrived at 10pm. The week was done! Time flies when you’re having fun! Joking aside, I absolutely love my job as a Homeless Support Officer and the variation and craziness it brings. I wouldn’t have it any other way!