Maintaining Restore: a day in the life of Christian Nowraty

picture of Christian

I recently spent some time accompanying our maintenance officer, Christian, so I could see what he does. It’s a common misconception that Christian’s role is mostly painting walls and mending fences, but – in reality – it is much, much more than that. This blog aims to shed light on the vital role Christian plays in keeping Restore running smoothly.

On the day I shadowed Christian, he was visiting one of our properties to check a recently vacated room and get it ready for a new resident. It’s really important that we turn rooms around as swiftly as possible when people leave, so that we can start the journey of providing a home and giving hope to another individual who needs it.

On our arrival at the property, Christian checked that the room had been left in an appropriate state and cleared away a few things that the previous resident had accidentally left behind, arranging for him to come and collect them. I quickly realised that Christian’s van is Restore’s answer to the T.A.R.D.I.S., or Mary Poppin’s carpet bag: whatever he needs on entering a property, he has in the back of the van! If he doesn’t, he knows exactly where to go to get it, and does so. From  tins of paint (to touch up scuffed walls), to drain unblocker, to bin liners, to spare pillowcases; almost anything can be found in Christian’s van.

To prepare the room for its next occupant, we built a wardrobe that had been sourced second-hand, to improve the storage available in the room. We put new sheets, pillows and towels on the bed, with a spare set placed in the aforementioned, newly erected wardrobe. We also left a resident handbook, and a copy of the New Testament (which we give to every resident for them to keep, or not, as they wish). Christian has a list of items to check, such as that the lightbulb was still working, the battery in the smoke alarm, the hinge on the fire door, etc etc. He also chatted with another resident of the house; just small talk, but evidence that Christian really gets to know and care for the people he meets during his day-to-day tasks.

Christian is clearly a firm favourite with our residents. This is not just because he is a frequent visitor to fix, improve, replace and deliver various items that are required to make the properties feel like home. He also keeps a regular check on supplies of everyday essentials like cleaning products and toilet paper, making sure no house is left short. No, his popularity with residents goes far beyond that: his quiet demeanour and peaceful attitude means people are predisposed to trust him and appreciate him, not only for the practical work he does, but also the way he treats them. One resident had this to say:

“I get on really well with Christian and we all appreciate the work he does for us here. He’s a thoroughly lovely man who’s always polite, pleasant and ready to help. He always engages in conversations with me and never fails to ask how we all are. He’s more of a friend then anything.”

 If I had to sum up Christian Nowraty in one word, it would be ‘unflappable.’ Our former C.E.O., Ed Hambleton, recently told me he would have “given his right arm” to have had Christian working with him during his time at Restore! It’s not just the fact that he can fix pretty much anything. Of course, his professional skills are essential to his role at Restore, but what Christian does goes way beyond the ‘maintenance’ job description. Yes, the properties we manage need to be well-maintained, so that we can provide our residents with the standard of accommodation that is an integral part of our “Providing Homes, Giving Hope” mantra. But what many may find surprising is that Christian’s role encompasses both aspects of our slogan. The way he integrates his role with befriending residents is remarkable. Whilst he paints a recently vacated room to prepare it for its next occupant, he’s talking to residents about their lives. He mends a fence, he’s chatting one on one with a resident who has volunteered to help. He meets an external heating engineer, he’s the public face of Restore to that person and the organisation they represent. He can offer a quiet word of concern to the relevant housing support worker if he notices that a resident is struggling. He can get alongside a resident in a way their allocated support worker perhaps cannot.

In short, Christian maintains more than just the properties. He helps to maintain the hope in our residents’ lives too. His role is a vital link between residents and staff, and the level of appreciation for his work on both sides is testament to how well he provides that link.

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