Michelle is a Project Worker in our Floating Support Housing Scheme, a team supporting around 70 of the people living with HARP.
Michelle started volunteering for HARP over 10 years ago and is approaching her seventh year of working full time for HARP having progressed through a range of roles. Her passion and dedication has stood the test of time. Michelle told us more about a day in the life of her current role.
What does your role normally involve?
I work one-to-one with residents, building trust with them and relationships with other agencies to really get to the route of why they are where they are at this present time and how we can work together to move forward.
Having a roof over their head is only the very start of our residents’ journeys, so a big part of my role is building a positive support network for those I work with. Even when our residents move onto to their own home, I want them to feel that at any point they can re-connect with me for support. Life has a habit of throwing curve balls your way no matter what you do or who you are, so knowing that there is always someone to reach out to makes all the difference. I believe that’s key to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
Recovery from the issues that lead many people to homelessness is a lifelong process because old ways of thinking, feeling and behaving can take hold out of the blue. So I try my best to let our residents know that it’s okay not to be okay sometimes, but there is always someone who can stand by your side whilst you figure it all out.
Sometimes my role means getting stuck in with the physical work and encouraging skills for living - doing the cleaning, gardening, cooking and community involvement alongside residents. It’s a great way to gain insight into areas that person may need support with, without the formality of sitting down with paperwork or typing away at a computer. It can really break down barriers.
I take pride in cleaning and preparing rooms after someone has left and making it ready for a new resident to move in, seeking out items such as a canvas print, or a couple of cushions to give the room a “homely” feel. I know that for some it has been a while since they had somewhere to call home, and although this brings many positive feelings it is also a scary, anxious time.
How has your role changed during lockdown?
The government measures put in place to ensure everyone’s safety have brought many changes. I am back in the complex needs scheme for the time being and only have contact with the residents I support via phone. It’s hard – this pandemic has affected everyone’s situation and their emotional and mental wellbeing.
Lockdown has also resulted in delays to the work that I was undertaking with external agencies but it’s vital to keep those connections going. So I stay in touch via text messages and phone calls, still undertaking essential work to ensure tenancies are sustained and work is still progressing as much as the situation allows so that the support needs of individuals can be met.
What’s the first thing you do when you start work?
My day always starts with the handover – speaking to colleagues, checking updates, emails, voicemails or text messages to see what actions are outstanding and if there are any issues or concerns that I need to be aware of since I was last on duty. That can create a substantial “to-do” list. Then I’ll check in with residents in our houses to see if there is anything that I can support them with.
This may include reminding them of appointments or actions that they need to do, encouraging engagement and essential living tasks such as cleaning or food preparation, or helping them think of something positive to do that day. My ability to overthink comes in handy because it means I can always find another way to look at a situation.
After that, no two days are the same! There is a lot of long-term work that starts from the minute someone is accommodated within our scheme. There are also meetings with professionals from other organisations and support meetings to participate in.
I live my work life with the aid of my faithful diary. But you can have a plan in place for the day and it can very suddenly change, so there is a mix of proactive and reactive work. It certainly keeps you on your toes, and makes every day different. But I would not have it any other way!
What are the most interesting parts of your job?
I love meeting a new resident and hearing where they are at in their life - we are all so unique. Getting to know individuals and understanding the path in life that they have been on, where they want to be, where they could be, and then building a connection and walking beside them while they find their way, has to be the best part – even when it doesn’t go how I would hope. I can often relate to where they are coming from because I have lived experience of homelessness, domestic abuse and addiction.
Some days can be a real struggle as we are often taking on the emotions of 20 plus people, so having a work-life balance is important to help switch off at the end of the day. Our daily debrief allows a period to breathe and let go of what has happened in the day – whether good or not so good. Blasting the car stereo out on the drive home helps too!
What do you love most about working for HARP?
I love being in a position to make a difference. And having people call me up or pop in long after they have moved on from HARP to update us on their lives is the best feeling.
Knowing that one person has taken all the negative things that have happened in their life and turned things around – and hearing the gratitude that they have for HARP – makes me proud to be part of an amazing organisation. I’m part of something that is trying its very best to make the world a better place - the world needs more of that.
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