What difference do you think having been supported by HF has made to you as a worker?
Having been a service user myself, I haven't supported one person where I don't understand where they are. I have a good understanding of their mindset and how their life is for them. I have a good relationship with every service user I support. I have been where they are. That's why I wanted to do this job. Peer support work had just been developed when I first got supported. My peer worker, was someone I had known when I was younger. I was happy for her to support me. By being supported from someone who had been in the same position as me, gave me hope for the future I got inspiration from her I hoped that one day I could be working in social care and give something back. I had gone through different services and some weren't great. They showed no understanding. They didn't treat you like a human being or a person. They didn’t listen to me or show any compassion. I wanted to change that by using my lived experience to support people in a positive way. Your life isn't the same as everyone else. You feel like an outcast from society, due to their lack of understanding and stigma attached to people’s different way of life and how they might look.
How have you found supporting people with issues you have personally experienced?
My lived experience is my university qualification. I have qualified. It's not easy. Housing First have a great understanding whether they have lived experience or not. Great compassion.
What do you find most satisfying in your work?
When I have made a wee difference to someone's day, someone's life. I say a wee difference because it might just be one wee thing I've done, even a conversation I have had. Just letting the SU know that they are not alone. Even if it's assertive outreach and I can get someone a coffee. Just knowing I have given them an ear to listen or I have sorted something out, like maybe the food bank or get a DRs appointment. Just to help in some way if they are struggling. I try to make every service user feel they are worth it. Every SU has a skill, an ability and strength to do something. Something they haven't used for years. I have one person at the moment who is fantastic at drawing and he sketches away. And that has helped him. I see the person beyond. I am interested in them.
I was a hairdresser, I worked in big hairdressers. When I did the Citizenship...I put in for the Make It Happen Fund, and I got hairdressing equipment. I could not believe I was in a place where I was able to draw on one of my strengths from my past. I used to remember myself as a hairdresser and tried to imagine this in the mirror but could not do this as I did not want to see the person who was looking back at me. I never thought I would ever be a hairdresser again. I felt valued and others believed in me. I volunteered with Social Bite and cut hair for homeless people. I found this so rewarding, it is one of the best things I have ever done. I remember when I was on the streets my hygiene was poor and I smelt, people did not want to come near me and I felt untouchable to others. There’s something about a hairdresser that people offload to I was able to help people to feel human again and valued. Once I had finished cutting their hair they would often tell me they felt so much better and could not thank me enough and they would be returning customers. For the people who were getting their hair cut that one to one touch is so important. I would love to do something like that with Housing First.
Everyone has a strength and building up their confidence. Sometimes service users are like “really?”. That gives them a wee lift. That's what I got, consistency. Wee things that were said to me, like planting wee seeds. If you keep planting wee seeds the SU will think about it and maybe ask for your help. Planting seeds for growth.
For you, what is it that makes HF such a successful form of housing support?
Ethos, compassion, care understanding listening person centred non-judgemental. No door closes. The support is there for as long as you want it. That gives you security. I had lost my family. It's such an important part of your life. Housing First was the only decent thing I had in my life. Other than that, it was drugs, alcohol, begging, homelessness. HF got me my home and I am still in the same house.
They helped me furnish it and get my white goods. It taught me how to sustain a home, how to live in a home because when you are homeless you are wild, you get used to the streets, you have friends that are on the streets. You are not alone. When I moved in, I was scared, there was a silence and stillness around me that I was not used to, people round about me that I didn't know (neighbours), I had to get used to this and my Housing First support was always there to listen to my fears and support me through them and I knew they would always come back if they came to see me and I was not home, they would come back later or the next day. It’s about being rehabilitated as well.
If there was one thing you would wish for HF what would that be?
It has to be more money! For us to grow and expand. I've been working for two years in August and that is what you hear about is funding and tenders. We have SU that would really have a confidence boost if they got their hair cut. I would like to do it but I think it boils down the Health and safety
Going for promotion?? I might but I like to keep using my lived experience. It's all about growth.