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.