Recently, I had the privilege of shadowing Hannah for a day in her role as Housing Support Worker. Hannah has worked for Restore since July 2020 and currently has eleven residents assigned to her case load. On the particular day I accompanied her, she spent the day supporting one resident in signing a lease for a council property and helping him prepare to move out of his room at Restore.
The day began with the morning prayer for staff at the Restore offices. As well as the more mundane administrative items that are discussed at these meetings, they are also a time for prayer as a team, united in serving our residents through our faith in God. I asked Hannah how she feels these meetings benefit her personally: “I love the culture of working at Restore; that we start each week with reading the Bible together and each day with prayer, bringing ourselves before God before we go out to meet with residents, so that when we go, it’s in his strength, knowing we’re supported by prayerful colleagues.”
We collected Hannah’s resident from his Restore house and took him for a meeting at the Job Centre. These meetings are a requirement for those in receipt of Universal Credit and can impact on the amount they are paid if they don’t attend, so making sure he got there was crucial. Whilst he attended the meeting, I chatted to Hannah about how varied her role can be. “No two days are the same,” she told me. “Today is a nice day because we get to witness a resident get the keys to their own place for the very first time, but some days there’s a lot of waiting around, either in the car or on hold on the phone, trying to get through to various agencies to get things done.”
Hannah says her favourite part of the role is chatting with the residents and finding ways to bring them together socially. Her easy manner and friendly approach clearly set people at their ease around her, but equally she’s not afraid to deliver some ‘tough love’ when a resident needs a stern talking to! It’s clear to me, though, that this is taken by residents in the spirit it is delivered: a caring chivvy to get them to do what they know needs doing. Hannah’s role (and that of the other members of the housing support team) is definitely one of ‘support people in learning to support themselves,’ rather than simply doing things for people. It’s the old adage of ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, give a man a fishing rod and he’ll never go hungry,’ that resonates here: at Restore we help people get back to a place of independence, and supporting them to create firm foundations on which their lives can be rebuilt. This is further evidenced when I ask Hannah about the groundwork that had gone into helping her resident get to the point where he can take on a council tenancy. Helping to establish a routine and structure to his daily life has benefitted his mental health. Helping him to apply for jobs has built his self-esteem and (once he’s offered a job) his financial security. Over the past few months Hannah has talked him through how to do things like contact the gas supplier to get the supply uncapped at the property; how to batch cook meals and freeze them so it’s more cost effective than cooking each meal individually; helping him learn to manage his finances and develop a habit of regular saving. She has also helped him work out what furniture and equipment he will need in his own home, and what can be acquired via a grant and what he needs to source himself. This led to him proactively looking on websites for local second-hand items and purchasing himself a vacuum cleaner!
Observing Hannah and her resident throughout the day, it is obvious that the new tenancy is a huge milestone for him; this particular resident has spent all his adult life to date in supported lodgings, so this is the first time he will ever have had a place to call his own. It was a special moment for me too, the first time I’ve witnessed a resident get the keys to their own place. I’ll never forget the look on his face as he held those keys in his hand for the first time. It is no exaggeration to say he actually could not stop smiling! For Hannah, as for all of us at Restore, there is a sense of satisfaction when one of our residents achieves this milestone. It makes the hours spent on hold to banks, energy companies, benefit offices and support agencies all worthwhile.
The breadth of knowledge demonstrated by the housing support team astonishes me. Whether it’s benefits, job applications, housing applications, grants for furniture, banking systems, setting up bills and direct debits, nothing is too much trouble or beyond their skill set. Whilst many of us may be used to doing some or all of this for ourselves, the housing support team help with these issues (to a greater or lesser degree) for each of the residents in their care. They do so with a smile on their face and a confident, calm demeanour that – as I witnessed with Hannah and her resident – sets people at their ease, reduces anxiety levels and instils confidence and trust between resident and support worker.
It was fantastic to get out of the office into the ‘coalface’ of what we do and see the difference that Restore is making in the lives of our residents. I hope that by reading this blog it has likewise given you an insight into the vital work we do. We cannot continue to support our residents without your help. If reading this has encouraged you to support our work financially, please text RESTORE to 70450 to donate £5. This will cost you your donation plus one standard network message. Alternatively if you would like to become a regular donor, please visit Donate – Restore York to set up a monthly direct debit.