"Support is so important. It is a lifeline for some people"

Floating Support Officer

I’ve seen many people turn their lives around over the years purely because they’ve had the encouragement needed just at the right time in their lives. When a client knows somebody believes in them and is there to support them, it can make the whole process of taking on a tenancy less daunting.

Support is so important. It is a lifeline for some people. 

I dread to think what this country will look like in five years’ time without these services. I don’t know where people who need support will go. 

There will be a strain on mental health services and GP surgeries. They’ll be inundated by people with problems as so often things can tip people over the edge such as benefit delays, eviction notices, and homelessness.

The difference this service makes to a client is between homelessness and the security of a home. It’s a really great service.

I’m a Floating Support Officer (FSO) for vulnerable adults who are homeless. I support them for a period of about two years.

I help clients apply for benefits, and ensure that they are living in secure and affordable properties. I also support them into education and employment.

Having an FSO come round to visit regularly until they become able to maintain their tenancy brings great relief to so many of my clients. Someone to keep an eye on things, keep the client accountable. They see that we believe in them. They see somebody cares. And that’s enough to make them care about themselves, because they’re valued.

I’ve seen many people turn their lives around over the years purely because they’ve had the encouragement needed just at the right time in their lives. When a client knows somebody believes in them and is there to support them, it can make the whole process of taking on a tenancy less daunting.

One of my clients had been in and out of prison and was homeless. Through our support he got a tenancy and can now have his children visit. He has rebuilt his relationship with them. He said he’d never have been housed if it weren’t for us and that he recognised he’d been given a second chance in life. He was so grateful and proved to be a good tenant.

Another client said that he’d seen a difference when I started working with him. I managed to get him backdated benefit to the sum of £8000. He had no idea he was able to make this claim. He used some of the money to buy an electric bike so that he could more easily go up the hill to his home, which for someone with a medical condition that affects his lungs was a real help. He also used the money to buy a cooker.

I’m most proud that clients still want to see me. I’m proud of what they’ve done and how I’ve supported them. Building trust with clients doesn’t happen overnight. You have to build your reputation with them. I’ve had some really lovely times and experiences.

All the people in my team do the work because they care about our clients. The most fundamental key characteristic of a Floating Support Officer is to have a caring personality because that’s what will carry you through. 

People that do this work have a passion for humanity and a heart for those who are vulnerable and less fortunate.

It takes a certain type of person to deal with some of the challenging situations we face in this work. Sometimes we do get clients throwing everything back in our faces. But we have to see the potential in a person and believe that people can change. It’s about seeing the whole person.

I’ve always looked upon this work as a calling. It’s my opportunity to do what I’ve been called to do. When I became a Christian, God changed my heart. Since then I’ve just wanted to help people. I can see the pain and hurt in people.

I’ve been supporting people for many years in different circumstances. I’ve worked in older people’s homes, with people who have learning disabilities, and asylum-seeking children and trafficked children. Working with some of the most vulnerable adults in our community through Southdown has been a real privilege for me to have been a part of.

I came to Southdown six years ago and started working with young people leaving care. After two years I applied for an office-based job working on the Gateway and my last two years I spent working with the vulnerable homeless adults group.

I’ve been able to branch out in different areas. There’s always room for growth here at Southdown. In my experience managers have always encouraged me to try something new.

Southdown provide very good training. I’ve learnt about the complexity of mental health and conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome. The training has always been relevant and useful to enhance my skills in dealing with the varied client groups. 

I have found all my managers over the years to be very supportive. My last manager was very understanding, she really has a big heart for the clients too. She really helped me grow into the job when I was initially unsure if it was for me.

And there is also the peer support from my team. Sometimes this work is raw. We’re human. We have to talk. And I found it so helpful having such a great team like ours. We all need someone to talk to or cry with and the team were there for me through one particularly hard experience of losing a client. I think while doing this work we need an outlet and the team was that for me.

Now I’m leaving Southdown and going back to work with asylum seeking minors and young adults leaving care. It is sad but all I have learnt in housing will be put to good use as I will be supporting the young people in their tenancies.

Life is like that, what we learn we take with us to the next role. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. It all fits together and one day we’ll see the whole picture. Well that’s how it works for me.

I am very grateful and thankful for all the years I have had with Southdown, and I hope that the support the service provides continues.

 

The West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) is an integrated service that offers a dynamic way of working, greatly benefiting multi-disciplinary teams and their clients, by providing a combination of pre-tenancy support, supported accommodation and floating support as well as some new and innovative targeted services for people at risk of homelessness.