Preventing homelessness in Reading

A day in the life of a Support Worker

“My feet are sore and my head is spinning.” Ele, our Fundraising Manager, spends the day with Lucy, a Launchpad Support Worker.

“I’m just back from shadowing one of Launchpad’s Support Workers, Lucy. My feet are sore and my head is spinning as I look back on a day of meeting people and missing people, going inside hostels and standing knocking at front doors across Reading.

Our first job was to call on a young lady Jane*. Jane lives with a mental illness and the memory of an extraordinary painful childhood. Jane is very vulnerable to people taking advantage of her financially. Lucy can’t make decisions for Jane, but supports her and can suggest ways she can protect herself and build a positive future.

After a quick dash back to the office to write up Lucy’s notes, we head out to visit a man who has been temporarily relocated by the council after his flat was taken over by drug dealers. He isn’t at home. Lucy leaves a note asking him to make contact. She’s keen to know he is safe and well, but can’t do any more than keep trying to visit. Lucy’s role is to be a reliable, trusted contact whilst this man strives to tackle his own addiction and move on in life, shaking off bad influences.

Next stop is Hamble Court, one of the two main hostels in Reading. Lucy acts as the bridge between them and Launchpad, and steps in to offer extra support to people who might lose their hostel room without the input she can give. In other words, she’s helping prevent people becoming homeless and paving the way for them to hopefully come to Launchpad for support.

“…she’s helping prevent people becoming homeless and paving the way for them to hopefully come to Launchpad for support.”

We meet one man, Dave*, who Launchpad helped get a room. Lucy explained to me Dave is doing really well because he has kept his room tidy enough not to be evicted and his drug use has stabilised. This doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, but when you hear how close he came to dying when sleeping rough, it’s actually a remarkable turnaround, which wouldn’t have happened without Lucy’s dedicated support. I thought the people I see sleeping on the streets in Reading wanted a roof over their head that their one aim was for shelter and security. What I learnt today is that people like Dave need an enormous amount of support to get to realise a room in a hostel is good for them. Lucy is the person with the time and knowledge to dedicate to that process.

When we meet Dave he is extremely shy and quietly spoken. Lucy asks how he’s doing and reminds him of all the activities Launchpad has on offer that he can get involved in. He doesn’t want to take part in anything yet, but he is anxious to get to his doctor’s appointment in half an hour’s time, which Lucy was also really encouraged by.

At the Salvation Army, Lucy’s client is not there. But we greet several other residents who Lucy knows and has built rapport with. This keeps Lucy in touch with Reading’s street population. Lucy is Launchpad’s eyes and ears linking with all the other organisations in town who work with the homeless. She is the person who can potentially help a rough sleeper make the first steps towards the second chance that Launchpad offers.

What struck me most about Lucy was her ability to identify the positive things her incredibly troubled clients had achieved. Nobody else in their life is doing that. You and I would struggle to be impressed by someone getting out of bed at 3pm to see us or someone not having as much blood and dirt on their hands as the last time we met. But Lucy notices these things and she grabs hold of them to bring her clients one step closer to a better life.”

*To protect the privacy of those we help names have been changed