A day in the life of an Outreach Worker

Our outreach teams go out on the streets to find people sleeping rough and offer them support. Leon, an Outreach Coordinator in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, talks us through what a day in his job looks like.

In outreach our day either starts early or finishes late. Morning shifts start at 5am and evening shifts finish anywhere from midnight to 2am.

The first thing I do in the morning is check our StreetLink referrals so I can plan the shift. Then we will head out and start to look for people, but it’s not just a matter of finding them. People don’t always want our help at first – they may have had negative experiences with other services in the past which makes it hard for them to trust us. Not to mention that it’s very early in the morning – I know if someone woke me up at 5am I wouldn’t be too happy!

So it’s our job to build a relationship and encourage people to accept our support. You have to put yourself in a rough sleepers’ shoes – there is a lot to think about. What should my opening be? What is my body language like? How much eye contact is friendly and how much is threatening? There is a lot of skill involved in being an Outreach Worker and it can take time to learn how to approach people.

At around 9 or 10am, we head back to the office. Anyone we have been able engage with will come back with us. They are given a hot meal and we’ll have a chat so I can work out the best way to help. I’ll also follow up with people we have met on previous shifts. Although we’re the first point of contact for people sleeping rough, we don’t just forget about them once they’re off the streets. There are many people we have supported throughout their journey to recovery.

You have to put yourself in a rough sleepers’ shoes.

One person I’m particularly proud of is a man we first came across at the start of the pandemic. He had been homeless for years – lots of different teams across London had met him already, but he had never come inside. He was a heroin user and was in a very dysfunctional relationship. But last year, we finally managed to get through to him. We found him a place in emergency accommodation and now, just a year later, he’s living in his own flat. It’s cases like his which make the job so rewarding.

Before I head home I’ll hand over to the night shift team. But even once I’m at home the day’s work is still on my mind. At night, I often worry about the people I have seen on the streets. I wonder where they are and what they’re doing. And I hope that one day we will get through to them too.

Interested in finding out more about StreetLink? Read here .