Peter works as a Prevention Worker at SPEAR supporting both single people and families at risk of becoming homeless such as individuals living in temporary accommodation, facing eviction and sofa surfers. The main purpose of his role is to identify people at risk and support them to overcome the key issues that might lead to homelessness. Peter joined SPEAR in 2018 after working as a deputy manager at a children’s care home. He became more involved with homelessness by volunteering at his local food bank, a homelessness project and a night shelter.
What does a Prevention Worker do?
In order to stop people from ending up on the streets, Peter tries to identify the ‘hidden homeless’ – people who are homeless but not necessarily sleeping on the streets, so may be sleeping in cars, sofa surfing or in squats. He works alongside local agencies: drug and alcohol services such as RCDAS and Kaleidoscope, civic centres, debt centres, Job Centre, and many other organisations such as local community network Home-Start. People also proactively find SPEAR via word-of-mouth and searching on Google.
Peter will first complete a phone assessment looking at ten different areas of an individual’s life using the Homelessness Outcomes Star (see below). This tool enables the individual and Peter to assess and set goals around ten different areas of their life, such as physical health and managing money. Peter then guides them to the appropriate local services and provides tools to help them move forward. Peter generally works with an individual for six weeks.
One of Peter’s clients was a lady with two children who fled domestic violence. When Peter first carried out the phone assessment with her she lacked confidence and was very closed, only giving one-word answers. She ran into problems processing her Universal Credit application and was massively in rent arrears.
Peter managed to secure a £250 grant from the Comasonic Foundation which surprisingly went a long way – it enabled her to purchase a laptop, college materials for her daughter and a tablet for her son to play with. Weekly sessions with Peter discussing her progress and recommending channels she could pursue helped the client gain more confidence. The client decided to start a path at college, taking up foundation courses in English and Maths which led to a further course in Psychology. Peter also managed to resolve the Universal Credit complications by visiting the job centre on her behalf so she now has some stable income.
Another client was a man who was facing eviction – he was sacked from his job after an accident in the workplace and he suffered from mental health issues. He had no income coming in and was burning through his savings due to an expensive drug habit.
The client was eventually evicted from his home, but Peter put in a referral to Richmond Council and the client was offered a one-bed accommodation. Peter assessed his finances and supported his work capability assessment in order to receive the full amount of his entitled disability benefits. This required several rounds of in-person meetings and going through paperwork together. Peter also helped him gain a £500 annual fuel allowance from Hampton Fund as well as Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
To address his mental health and drug addiction, Peter put the client in touch with local services. He has now stopped taking drugs altogether and has put him forward to take part in their peer mentor programme. The client’s lifestyle, motivation and outlook have been completely turned around – Peter is delighted that he went from being late to meetings to now phoning up to remind Peter about an upcoming meeting!
What do you enjoy about your work?
“I wake up in the morning and am excited about going to work! I enjoy working with clients rather than for clients – it might take an hour to guide them through the processes but they are more equipped to be independent in the long run.
“I’m glad to make a positive impact on people. I heard that a family I helped in Kingston have now moved into permanent accommodation. Having helped them to join the housing register, it’s a great feeling when things you put into place bear fruit.
“During Covid, it’s been harder to carry out my work – there is only so much you can do over the phone. Not all clients have equipment and internet at home to manage their applications. Just arranging for installation of Wi-Fi has been tricky. I send clients information but can’t motivate them remotely; they may lack of confidence or struggle to understand technical terms. As lockdown is slowly lifting we try to meet more regularly, for instance visiting the park.
“This new way of working has enabled me to evaluate my work methods and be more sensitive. Previously I took for granted that people could read, now I try to explain things in simpler terms.”
What is the best way to contact Peter for help?
If you know someone who is struggling and about to become homeless, you can refer them by filling in this form: http://www.tfaforms.com/4650271
You can also speak to a SPEAR member of staff by phone who will take down your details and pass them on to Peter: 020 8288 6506
Please note: our prevention service is only available for people in the borough of Richmond. If they reside outside of Richmond, Peter is happy to signpost them to other support agencies.