How Leigh Creates an Inclusive Workplace for their LGBTQIA+ Colleagues

    Leigh is a Service Manager in Hither Green. As part of LGBTQIA+ History Month, we asked them about what being part of the LGBTQIA+ community whilst working with people who experience homelessness means to them.

    I went to school during Section 28 , so my formative years growing up were in an era when there was no positive representation for people like me. I am proud of my queer identity, and it influences every corner of my life. So for me it’s important to show that positive relationship I have with my identity in the workplace for queer staff and residents. I have had really great conversations with our residents about my non-binary gender identity, smashing the stigma about people who’ve experienced homelessness and how people assume they might respond to difference. Similarly, it feels so important to be a positive representation for young queer staff who hopefully benefit from my vision of a bold and inclusive workplace.

    I have always been keen to maintain a client facing role because the most rewarding part of the work for me is the relationship we build with our residents. As someone who benefited from St Mungo’s services almost 10 years ago, I understand the importance of relationship building and the importance that plays in helping our clients thrive.

    My first homelessness job was actually with St Mungo’s in 2016, I was a support navigator for Waltham Forest Single Homelessness Advice and Support Service. I worked assessing and supporting the single homeless population in the borough. I absolutely loved getting to know people and how fast paced the work with people who were sleeping rough was.

    Before coming to Spring Gardens I had taken a sabbatical. Like many others in the sector, I had found working though the pandemic difficult and prioritised my own wellbeing, so I was refreshed in my desire to help others. My previous employment was as London Services Manager for AKT an LGBTQIA+ youth homelessness charity. I managed services ranging from an advice and support service to a network of LGBTQIA+ supported lodging placements.

    My role predominately involves overseeing a team of four managers who manage more than twenty staff across the two sites. The great thing about the project is no one day is ever the same and there is always a challenge to find a solution for. I work really hard to set a culture that is client focused, inclusive and bold.

    We can’t end homelessness until we tackle the structural barriers in this country and see major changes to the way we view social needs. For me, that means decriminalising drugs, prison reform, a new asylum system, defunding the police and investing in specialist social teams and services. Most importantly the government needs to invest and build more affordable homes and supporting people into them and to sustain them.

    National Apprenticeship Week

    Nine years ago Dan found himself experiencing homelessness after his Landlord sold the property he was living in. He struggled to find a new tenancy that would accept him, and his beloved dog, Moby.

    After sleeping rough in Brighton, he and Moby were supported into safe accommodation by St Mungo’s. Today, he works as an Apprentice Assessment and Reconnection Worker in a No Second Night Out (NSNO) service in London.

    We asked him about his experiences of being an apprentice at St Mungo’s:

    My average day as an Apprentice Assessment and Reconnection Worker is hectic. Pretty much anything that can happen, will happen , and the best laid plans sometimes have to be shelved in favour of taking a more dynamic approach.

    My day starts with a team handover meeting to discuss any issues that may have arisen overnight. After this, I liaise with the Duty Team for that day and we discuss anything that needs to be achieved, any clients that need special attention and which admin tasks can be covered. After this, I like to check my emails for any client referral updates and any specific tasks that have been allocated to me. Then I will turn my attention to casework, the clients that I need to see or support and of course, any referrals that need chasing up. It’s easy to get caught up with outstanding tasks in any given day, but I always try to make sure that the people we support at NSNO are at the forefront of how I organise my time and prioritise tasks.

    My previous career was in the hospitality industry, so undertaking an apprenticeship within St Mungo’s has helped me to develop my transferable skills in terms of working within the adult social care sector. It’s also given me the knowledge that I needed so that I have a strong foundation to build on for the future.

    The apprenticeship scheme has introduced subject areas that I didn’t have an understanding of previously, such as how our services are commissioned, and the effect that personalisation within care and support has had on how we deliver those services. Learning about these different areas as part of the Apprenticeship Programme has also shown me how my career could develop in the future. Overall, undertaking an apprenticeship has given me the space to learn and access to new knowledge that will make my change in career a sustainable one.

    My time so far at St Mungo’s has been everything I thought it would be, but one moment stands out particularly. Someone told me when I started at NSNO that I would never forget the first person that I had supported and that was true. This particular person had extremely poor mental health and required some particular support while at NSNO to manage this. They also found the environment challenging to be in. When they told me that their referral had come through and they had viewed where they would be moving, their happiness was obvious and I was so happy for them. It really is something that will never leave me and why I wanted to do this work.

    I would tell anyone that was thinking about doing an apprenticeship that it is more challenging than you may expect, but that it’s definitely worth the effort you put in! I have a degree in History so I thought that the written work would be easier for me but it takes lots of time to produce work of the quality to meet merit or distinction standard. You also have to be prepared to keep the boundary of taking the twenty percent protected time for the apprenticeship, because if you don’t, it’s easy to get behind! However, if you want a strong foundation on which to base your career, then it is well worth the extra effort and after all, it’s only going to be 15 months!

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