When did your role start?
I’ve been working with SPEAR in Wandsworth since November 2020. My trainee role is initially a 12-month contract and has been funded by one of SPEAR’s corporate partners QSix (previously called PMM). This is the second Trainee Outreach Worker role that QSix has funded and they fund a Wandsworth Outreach Worker too. In addition to my role, they also sponsor my NVQ Level 3 training qualification. These funded posts work alongside other Outreach and Navigator posts funded by the local authority both in Wandsworth and other SW London Boroughs.
What were you doing before you joined?
Before I joined SPEAR, I had just completed my paramedic science degree with three years of ambulance experience as a student paramedic. In my spare time, I also enjoyed volunteering within homeless outreach at my local church. So even before I joined SPEAR, I had gained many transferable skills beneficial to my role within the outreach team. This is especially true when I was a paramedic, learning how to work with vulnerable people, the importance of clear communication and of course, working under pressure too.
What made you want to join SPEAR?
What I most enjoy is connecting with people. I found I could relate to people no matter what their circumstances were. I wanted to be able to spend longer time with the people I encountered, as opposed to an emergency situation where I would only spend around 10 minutes with them. As a paramedic, I had to constantly move from one person to the next.
When I saw this job vacancy at SPEAR, it completely jumped out at me. I wanted to be more involved in people’s lives, and this opportunity would give me the chance to bond with people and support them for an extended period. After reading the job role and the background of the charity, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Once I learnt more about SPEAR – from the way the organisation operates, to the many individual stories of homelessness – I felt compelled to apply. The goals of the organisation resonate with my own beliefs.
Can you tell us a bit about your role?
As a trainee outreach worker, I have different shifts every week and we usually work in pairs. During our shift, we receive a list of rough sleeper referrals who have either contacted us directly or have been reported to us by a member of the public. The next step, usually on the late-night shift, is to attend these sleep site locations (picture: outreach work in Tooting Common). We try to find these people bedded down, verify them (which means doing an eligibility assessment to see if they meet the criteria for our services. We then add them to a database of rough sleepers called CHAIN), and continually work with them.
Sometimes it can be really difficult to engage with clients as many have unfortunately disconnected from all sources of help due to past experiences. This can be challenging, but the outreach team are trained at checking on people and seeing if there’s anything they need immediately, whilst building trusting relationships.
Once a client has been verified on a shift, our role is to support them with their physical health and wellbeing and link them to services that can support their mental health. Additionally, we signpost them to financial support organisations and find the optimum routes to employment, education and housing. These areas are also supported through some of our other teams at SPEAR including our Community, Development and Innovations team and our Homeless Health Link team.
Your role and training has been funded, what does your training cover and how have you found it?
I am undertaking an NVQ Level 3 qualification. To date, it has been incredibly beneficial to my development within my role. Overall, it covers health and wellbeing improvement, health promotion, barriers to health care, and understanding behavioural change. Towards the end of my course, there’s a practical element where I will be able to leverage those tools and skills with my clients to produce a confidential portfolio.
It’s a nine-month course offered by the Royal Society for Public Health and the material is provided to me online. I have a great tutor who supports my training and is able to answer any questions I may have. Overall, I’m really enjoying my training and I’m looking forward to progressing further!
What do you enjoy about this role and working at SPEAR?
My favourite part is seeing the difference our work makes. We’re like the bridge that helps connect people to things they have lost access to in the past. We help them cross over into the next phase, and it is so fulfilling to see people rebuilding their lives.
We’re like the bridge that helps connect people to things they have lost access to in the past.
Everyone has a different story and comes from a different background. People often make assumptions about why someone has become homeless. But until you talk to that person and get to know them, there are so many different reasons and pressures that can influence their position.
I enjoy working with SPEAR because it is really interesting to understand the journey people have been on whilst working with them to overcome those barriers. No two days are the same because we’re always finding new ways to support people in different and often complex situations. While this role can be challenging, we work through each situation as a team, gaining advice and experience from each other. What is most rewarding about the role is when you can break down those walls, clients start to open up and we’re able to offer the essential support to begin their journey to independence.