From homelessness to working at SPEAR – Meet Sophea

From homelessness to working at SPEAR – Meet Sophea

How did you come across SPEAR?

I was first introduced to SPEAR when I myself experienced homelessness. Initially, I was involved with St Mungo’s – another charity that helps homeless people. They helped me get through a 12-step course in order to overcome a previous addiction. When I had successfully completed the 12-step course, St Mungo’s said they felt I was ready to move on and they suggested that I work with SPEAR.

As soon as I joined SPEAR, the charity was so supportive and helpful. First, they placed me into supported housing and then I started the Peer Mentoring Course which is tailored to people with lived experience of homelessness. SPEAR really helped me get through that transitional period, and now I am able to see things much clearer. Today, I feel more positive about my future and that’s why I want to give back to clients who are currently in a similar position that I once was in.

How long have you been involved with SPEAR?

In November it will be 2 years. While I used to be a client of SPEAR, it was only recently that I completed the mentoring course and started to ‘give back’. I completed this initial training in July 2019.

Does your experience of homelessness help with your work?

My previous experience with homelessness has really helped me excel within my role now. I believe I can really empathise with my clients as I have been through similar hardship and difficulties. Without that experience, I don’t think I’d be able to understand my clients as well, and with it, I can give them the same advice that I found life changing.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Peer Mentoring Course?

At the beginning of the course, we were taught about SPEAR’s policies, what the charity does, its purpose and mission, and the positive change it can bring to clients. We were then taught the different skills needed for mentoring. For example, I learnt about the importance of safeguarding and how to control my own behaviour and feelings around my clients.

We were also taught how to help our clients express and understand their emotions. This included learning to listen to somebody, not just to their words but also tuning into body language. In turn, this really helps us to understand the client better and enables them to express those emotions out loud so they can work through them.

What does your day-to-day entail as a Peer Mentor Worker?

At the moment I’m trying to recruit some fellow SPEAR clients for the 2021-22 intake of the Peer Mentoring Course. They will progress along a similar path I did and I will offer them advice along their journey.

I have also started a Digital Skills Programme with our residents in Sutton. The programme is designed to help clients with various activities, such as writing a CV, managing money, and doing online shopping. For instance, I have helped one particular client enrol onto an English learning course.

At the start, he couldn’t speak English very well. The client borrowed a laptop and we downloaded an English language app so that he would be able to practise. His confidence has really developed as a result and he is very excited to start college this year which is amazing! Seeing these kinds of results, and the impact that my own actions are bringing to various individuals, is why I love what I do.

Do you enjoy being a mentor?

I really love being a mentor because I can see my clients becoming more confident every single week. I feel very proud of my clients and what they are able to achieve. Equally, I am also proud of myself, and how far I’ve come on my journey to be able to help others go through what I previously have.

How has the pandemic affected your role?

The pandemic has meant we can’t meet clients face-to-face. This has been really hard, especially as I know a lot of my clients have felt isolated and lonely. However, we still persevere to find a way to do amazing work despite the distance! We can still stay in contact with clients over the phone or online and provide them with the necessary support and advice. While not ideal, it’s still possible to carry out our work with the help of technology.

Are there any challenges you have found being a mentor?

Funnily enough I haven’t experienced any challenges yet. That might sound strange but I really haven’t – I just love working for SPEAR!

What advice would you give to other SPEAR clients thinking of doing the Peer Mentoring Course?

I would tell them to go for it! The SPEAR mentoring course is wonderful to be involved in because it can have a real, beneficial impact on people’s lives. SPEAR has helped me become the person I am today as I have not only grown as a client, but now as a mentor. This mentoring course is also incredibly unique as SPEAR places a lot of trust in you right from the outset, and encourages your own personal growth. It is definitely worth doing if you have the opportunity.