No day is ever the same in CENS’ busy office! Patsi works tirelessly to co-ordinate referrals, liaise with other agencies and keeps the office running smoothly. How does she cope with the highs and lows of working at CENS?
What led you to work at CENS?
I started working part time for CENS in 2017, I had already got another charity administrator role and this fit alongside it. When the shelter had to close in 2020 we were all made redundant. I really missed working here and when Marina offered me a full time role in 2022, I was really pleased to join CENS again. I am a Christian and being part of something that is so worthwhile is really important to me.
There always a lot to do at the shelter. My role involves plenty of the usual admin tasks but I will sometimes end up cooking, clearing rooms, even shopping or doing fundraising. There are also some very busy times when the phone will not stop ringing with people trying to refer in, it can tie in with the weather being bad.
What’s the best thing about working here?
The best thing about working here is seeing the residents find hope. To see someone come from the dark uncertain place they have been in before CENS, to the joy and hope when they find accommodation is amazing. Sometimes that change happens just from them being here a few days and finding they have their own room and someone to talk to.
My most memorable moment was one gentleman who came to CENS a few years ago. He was in a really terrible state, including suffering from malnutrition. The staff here went above and beyond to support him because he needed extra help just to do basic self care. He improved a little whilst here and went in to supported accommodation. A few years later he came to the door to say hello. He was utterly unrecognisable, the difference was amazing. He was full of life and had a cheeky sense of humour, with plans for the future. I cried when I realised who he was! I was so shocked at how much someone can change.
What’s the biggest challenge about working here?
The biggest challenge is definitely having to say no to people. There are situations where we can’t help because we are full or because the shelter isn’t the right place for that person right now. We can signpost to other agencies but we don’t know what will happen to that person.
I think compassion and patience are really crucial! Also I’m quite logical which is helpful when working with all the legislations around homelessness, local connections, housing benefit etc. Working out what help someone is or isn’t entitled to can be a challenge.
What should someone who finds themselves homeless do?
They need to make themselves known to local services straight away. First port of call should be the council where their local connection is. In some situations the council have a duty to help immediately. If not then it’s still important to start that application asap. After that contact us to see if we have space. It’s best to phone, but you can also email, use the website contact forms or send a Facebook message. If CENS is full keep trying every day. If you are going to be on the streets that night report yourself to the council’s outreach team via Streetlink, an online service.
There are other important things to do as well:
- Make sure you have applied for benefits if eligible, and that you have a bank account you can access.
- Make sure your name is off the previous tenancy if you can’t get back to the property.