5 MINUTES WITH… OUR HOUSING COORDINATOR

Julie has supported countless people break the cycle of homelessness. Here we find out why she thinks more needs to be done to protect vulnerable people and what she’s looking forward to seeing next at CENS

How did you come to work at CENS?

I started off as a support worker at CENS doing night shifts. I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise after I had my son, but I knew that the hours would fit in perfectly. I wanted to spend time at home during the day with my young family so working nights was great for that.

What is your role at CENS?

I have a split role. I do two overnights a week as a support worker and then 20 hours a week as housing co-ordinator. The housing role is something I started in January, I had no idea how much goes on behind the scenes when I first took it on! I have to liaise with lots of outside agencies (housing associations, Joint Referral Panel the Colchester Borough Council and landlords) to find the most suitable accommodation for each resident. This can be a long process and has to be carefully considered as each agency has certain criteria. It’s really important that people move on to the right place so that they get the specific support they need. It’s a lot of responsibility but when I see people move on and be successful in their tenancies it’s all worth it.

Even though working two nights a week as well means my hours are long, I get to know every resident really well.

What’s the best thing about working at CENS?

The ever-changing situation! I like that day to day, week to week, it’s never the same. There are always different people coming in, different situations to navigate and people needing different types of support. I like that it’s always changing.

What’s the hardest thing about working at CENS?

When you can see that you can help someone but they’re not at the right place to accept it. People have got to want to make changes – it’s not just about us supporting them, they have to take a step towards the help. But no matter what, everyone deserves to be housed and we always will help where we can.

What’s the biggest contributor to homelessness?

Lack of housing. The private rent sector is through the roof and it’s barely affordable for those on a decent wage. I think there needs to be more regulations for rogue landlords who apply for a Housing in Multiple Occupation license and just rip people off. People end up living in substandard accommodation and they’re charged £650 a month! But people have to take it as there are no other options. There are people who are profiting from dire situations. Luckily there are organisations like Shelter who try and stop those situations from happening but how do you stop it completely?

What would you like to see at CENS moving forward?

I think I’d like to see more staff in the day time. We need more funding to open up weekdays – but it would be great to have a support worker on-hand for the residents.