An interview with our new Scottish Outreach Worker Patricia
– The Interview
We sat down (virtually) with Patricia to learn more about her work since joining Borderline in December.
Obviously, there has been a huge change in recent weeks. How has this impacted your work?
The majority of the work we do with our clients is face to face so Covid-19 has had a definite impact. The situation is changing on a daily basis with new information, so it has been challenging to coordinate plans. But we have adjusted to continue supporting our clients and ensure they have the support they need at this time.
What has your experience around homelessness been before joining Borderline?
I have worked within advice and homelessness services for almost 20 years. Before starting at Borderline, I worked as a street outreach worker in Westminster for almost a decade, and before that, I worked in a homeless hostel in Camden, firstly as a project worker and later working around helping individuals facing substance misuse.
As I have lived and worked in inner city London over that time, I have always had an acute awareness of homelessness and rough sleeping.
How have your first few months with Borderline been so far?
I have really enjoyed my time so far at Borderline. I feel the transition from my previous role has been very smooth and I really love that our work enables us to spend more time with clients. This frontline work means we can engage more intensively with them and to build more trusting relationships.
And I understand you have worked with Borderline clients in previous roles?
It has really helped that I have worked with Borderline clients already in my previous role as a street outreach worker in Westminster. In that role, I was doing joint work with Alex [current Scottish Outreach Worker] for Borderline’s clients, which really helped me to already build some really good working relationships. Because I am working with some of the same clients, I have also been able to build up a really good level of trust with them, which has helped me in my work.
What does a typical day in the life of a Scottish Outreach Worker look like?
My day varies on a daily basis. This could involve doing frontline casework engaging with clients, completing support needs assessments and subsequently referring to appropriate services, as well as supporting clients to attend a range of services and appointments. I also advocate on behalf of Borderline’s clients, attending meetings and/or case conferences with partnership services to ensure that all agencies are on track in support of a client.
In all aspects of my work as a Scottish Outreach Worker, I want to make sure our clients are receiving all the necessary support to achieve the best possible outcome for them.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you identify new clients that could be supported by Borderline? What tends to be the process?
Borderline receives referrals from various agencies but mainly Outreach teams across London contact us by completing a referral form. We will then review the referral and check the criteria match that of clients we support [first and second generation Scots]. Often, Alex and I will make further enquires to get as much information as possible about the client.
It is really beneficial now having two outreach workers at Borderline as we have the capacity to take on and support more clients.
Given the often complex nature of support needs around homelessness – how difficult is to engage and connect with clients? And how do you address any of these challenges?
There can be difficulties engaging with our clients at times. I think it is important, and what I like to try and do is focus on developing a good working relationship with individuals. Although this can often take some time to establish, by meeting clients regularly and getting to know them and their story, this helps us to have a clearer understanding of their issues.
I like to give clients the opportunity to make decisions about their support and encourage ownership. If clients are involved in the decision-making, then the positive outcome is more likely to happen. Showing clients the respect that they deserve and giving them positive feedback throughout will continue to foster good working relationships.
Can you tell us a bit more about how the Scottish Outreach Worker project is looking to reach more boroughs?
We already work closely with a number of agencies across London, primarily in Westminster, and are continuing to build an awareness of Borderline’s work pan-London within homelessness services. We have already approached various Outreach teams across Greater London and been invited to speak at team meetings. This has given us the opportunity to continue to promote Borderline’s work and explain how our service can help. We are engaging with local churches, contacting homeless hospital discharge teams and various day centres to ensure potential new clients can access our support.
Given your understanding of the complex issues clients are going through – what is your advice for a member of the public passing someone homeless on the streets?
I would advise concerned members of the public to contact Street Link to report a rough sleeper. This should be the first port of call for anyone concerned. To visit their website, find their details here
What do you think makes the Scottish Outreach Worker project stand out from other street outreach services?
The Scottish Outreach Worker project offers a unique service as we can continue to work with clients once they have been housed into a hostel or independent housing. This means that we can offer long- term support to enable clients to live independently for as long as necessary, often between 2 weeks and 18 months, but also empowering clients to eventually live independent lives without support.
Given that there are no quick-fix solutions – in general terms what more needs to be done to tackle rough sleeping?
Housing First is a model that should be adopted more. It has been around since the 1990’s, originating in the USA and the first trial in the UK took place in Glasgow back in 2010.
The idea is that homeless clients are given stable, independent and permanent accommodation away from sleeping rough on the street. However, beyond this, they are provided with intensive and holistic support to enable recovery from complex issues and reduce the likelihood of returning to the streets.
In London, the model is still being trailed across different boroughs so there is limited availability. At Borderline, we have previously referred clients to Housing First.