On the day I caught up with Alex, she had already been working since 6am! Alongside the Street Outreach Team (a partner service that works closely with Wintercomfort) she had spent the early hours of the morning ‘verifying’ rough sleepers.
This is a regular activity which aims to find people at their sleep site, conduct a welfare check and make them aware of the support they can access. The process also helps to give a clear understanding of rough sleeping in the city.
Despite the early start, Alex is still full of energy and enthusiasm as we sit down to talk about her role as Receptionist Project Worker.
“I love working here and the good days definitely outweigh the bad. You learn to celebrate the little achievements a person makes and to recognize that a small change can have a huge impact and be a really big deal for the individual.”
What was your career history prior to Wintercomfort?
I worked in social care, most recently working for four years in dementia end-of-life care. Prior to that I was working at a children’s home for young people with complex needs. I like to work in an environment which is rewarding and where no two days are the same – that is certainly true of Wintercomfort!
What does a typical day at Wintercomfort look like?
We are constantly responding to the needs of the people we support, and this can change from one day to the next, so no day is ever the same. Apart from the kitchen team, I am always the first person to arrive at 7.30am and I spend that first hour preparing the centre so that it is ready for the day service to begin at 8.30am.
Working mostly on Reception, I am the first person people see when they come through the door. I find people will often open up to me when they arrive and tell me if they have any particular issues. It is important to be able to have an open dialogue whilst always maintaining personal boundaries. The phones are busy throughout the day, and I will deal with various requests such as issuing fuel and food vouchers and speaking to people who may be in crisis and need immediate help.
“I was really shocked by the number of people with very complex mental health issues, as well as how young some of the people are that are homeless in our city.”
What is the hardest part of the job?
Dealing with people that don’t want to accept the help that they need to improve their circumstances. Supporting people to a position where they will accept it and make positive changes can be very demanding.
How do you deal with a difficult day?
When someone is behaving in a challenging way, I tell myself that it’s not the person, it’s the situation. It’s important to remember that the people we support have usually experienced a huge amount of trauma in their lives – every aspect of their lives feels like a battle. Sometimes it’s hard for people to think and act rationally and calmly.
And outside of work, I love to run! In fact, I have just started a new running group with some of the women who attend our Women’s Group. I think this will be hugely beneficial to improve fitness, confidence, and ultimately mental wellbeing. The aim is to work on the Couch to 5k together and in the future to complete a race as a team, so watch this space!