Q: What led you to CENS?
A: I began by volunteering in the kitchen at weekends. I am not the best cook in the world, but wanted to help where I was needed and luckily there was another volunteer who took the lead with the meals, so I just helped with the prep! I didn’t start volunteering with the intention of working at CENS, it all sort of happened by chance really. I remember having a bad day at the office where I was working, and I emailed Marina (the manager) to ask if there were any other volunteering positions available and she suggested I interview for the position of Project Worker. It was a gamble as I didn’t have much experience in this sector at the time, but I was familiar with CENS and knew it was somewhere I would enjoy working. I’m glad I took the leap because once I started my new role, I never looked back.
Q: What made you want to work at CENS?
A: I wanted to do something I really believed in, and I knew that working for a charity, supporting people in the way CENS does, would make me feel I was part of something positive. Throughout my months of volunteering, I saw first-hand that CENS was helping change people’s lives, and that was really exciting to me. I also liked the culture, always feeling supported by my colleagues, and even though I work alone during a shift, I know someone will always be there at the end of the phone to offer suggestions or advice if I need it.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: I usually arrive at CENS at 8.50am and spend about half an hour with the previous project worker. This gives us a chance to catch up and go over anything that needs doing urgently. There are lots of odd jobs and plenty of paperwork to get done throughout the day which I try to fit in when I can. Even though I work at the weekend, the phone is busy with people wanting to refer in, so I take initial referrals or signpost out when appropriate. I also try to catch up with every resident to find out how they are and where they are with their move-on plans. I work during the weekends when the residents can stay in all day, so some shifts are hectic but mainly my shifts are quieter than the project workers who work during the week.
Q: What is the best thing about being a project worker?
A: The best thing is seeing people move on to more permanent accommodation. I enjoy watching people who have come to CENS with nothing, and then, with support, see them take responsibility for helping themselves start again. It takes such strength to do that and it’s not easy, but it can be done.
Q: What is the hardest thing about your job?
A: Knowing that not everyone who needs help will be able to get it is really hard. There are lots of times when I have to turn people away from the door and that is something I still find challenging.
Q: How do you relax in your spare time?
Q: I think relaxing after a shift is really important, as I can take work home with me sometimes. I’ve recently started running, and while it’s not the most relaxing thing in the world it definitely helps me to switch off and ground myself back into the moment.
Q: What is your most memorable experience since working at CENS?
A: There have been so many! But the one that springs to mind is when the residents made me a birthday cake – I was really touched.
Q: What 3 things do you need to be a good project worker?
A: Empathy, boundaries, and resilience.
Q: What future developments would you like to see at CENS?
A: I think an in-house counsellor would be good for some residents. As project workers, we’re always there to listen and be supportive but I think a properly qualified therapist could help even more. I’d also like to link up with more voluntary opportunities for the service users.
Q: What do you think is the biggest contributor to homelessness?
A: Hard one to answer as each person’s circumstances are unique but I’d say more affordable housing would definitely help.