Every person experiencing homelessness who arrives at the Nightshelter is assigned a Project Worker. They regularly meet on a one-to-one basis to plan and make positive steps forward. Debby, has been a Project Worker and Advocate at the Nightshelter for over five years. Here, she shares her experiences and talks about how her role has changed over recent weeks during lockdown.
Why are you driven to help people experiencing homelessness?
Because I believe everyone needs a home to start to fulfil their dreams and feel safe and secure.
What does your role involve?
I help by enabling residents to move on with their lives and to work on the things that are stopping them from doing this. I take a holistic approach because until they sort out other issues there is no point in them finding work or accommodation as this might fail.
Are there common issues that residents face?
Most stem from a lack of self-esteem, childhood traumas which they have carried into adulthood, living chaotic lives and living day to day instead of looking to the future. Due to these traumas some, but not all, have turned to alcohol and drugs to help them cope with the traumas, this then becomes their demon.
How would you describe the Nightshelter to someone who hasn’t come across it before?
It is not like you think it will be from things you have seen on the telly. We try to make it as homely as possible for residents. Staff really care at the Nightshelter and it is more than a job in its a vocation. We can help change people’s lives for those who want to change! There are lots of rules but that is to make the residents feel safe and secure while living in their temporary home. We can provide a holistic approach to the individual, looking at their support needs and what will help them grow.
The Nightshelter has two ‘move-on houses’, can you explain abit more about what they are?
They are the next step to independent living. Residents can move to them and still receive support from us. The main role of these houses is to help them move on with their lives, find employment and learn the skills they need to live independently so that they know what to do if they have a crisis so they never end up homeless again.
What do you find most rewarding about your role?
Watching people change while they are with us and feeling that they now have a future. It does not happen overnight, that’s what I like about the move on houses, residents have more time to grow and change and become happier and more fulfilled people.
How has your role changed in recent weeks since the outbreak of Coronavirus?
It has been very difficult to do formal face to face support as life is on pause for many people. But we have been doing lots of chatting and checking in on people and how they are coping. I try to bring a bit of fun to the shelter when I am on duty either singing or dancing, and just making residents smile. As I cannot go into to the move-on houses at the moment it is just telephone support, which I hadn’t realised was so hard as it is not the same as sitting with someone seeing their faces. I am sad not to be going into the move-on houses each week, I know most of them are missing this contact.
You have been busy contacting former residents, how are they coping at the moment?
I have tried to phone as many ex residents as I can. Most people are ok at the moment but they have my number should they need any help during this time. The ones that are more vulnerable I ring every week, they do love having that contact. I was surprised by how grateful they have been for us checking up on them. I discovered the television of one former resident in his 70’s had stopped working. I was able to help him order a new one online as he doesn’t have internet to do it himself. Until it arrives I have supplied him with lots of DVDs from the Nightshelter.