Where would you go if you found yourself homeless? Many people would want a helping hand, well drop in and see Darren.
We spoke to Outreach Worker, Darren Townsend, to find out about his role and what makes him award winning, after scooping the Care Professional of the Year prize at the Solihull Together Awards.
Hi Darren, can you describe your role?
“I am an outreach worker for homeless people, so I help homeless people into accommodation, but I also do drop in clinics where I meet homeless people who don’t know where to turn to.
“Often these people have no ID or benefits. We help them find out what their entitlements are so that they can get the right benefits. Then I sort them some identification, from there we ask them where they want to be and sort them some accommodation. We also try to find out how they first became homeless in the first place, these are normally things like mental health, substance abuse, relationship breakdown or possibly their family’s relationship breaks down.
“Everyone is different. They come to you and they could be a simple fix with just the need for accommodation or they can have multiple problems. They are normally complex and we, the workers, have to be good problem solvers and build up trust with customer but without them becoming too reliant on us. We try and build their confidence in solving their own problems.
“If you just put someone into housing, these issues can reoccur, so we try to help by signposting them to support. Like support for their substance abuse or that they are registered with a GP or mental health agency and are getting the help they need to address the issues. Essentially we are there to get them the help to be able to live independently.”
How did you get into the role?
“I worked for a hostel for eight years on the night shift, and I met a lot of different people with lots of issues. I became the sort of person that people would come to meet and have a cup of tea with and try to get support.
“I realised people need that support and I wanted to get more involved so I joined Midland Heart on a project called the personalisation project which went around to support people and give people access to that support, and then the role has grown from there.”
What drives you to do the role?
“Everybody likes to do that good deed of the day, whether it is helping an old person with their shopping bags, you get that good feeling inside, and maybe they thank you and you get that little bit of appreciation. This role is like that but times 1000.
“I spoke to one lad who was in the gutter and the only way out for him was to end it all, he is now living in his own flat and is now ready to get back into work. To be able to get someone like that back into a property and getting results like that is a great feeling. I can go home and look in a mirror and say I have done a good job. You are giving these people a reason for living.”
Do you find any aspect of the role challenging?
“It is a challenging role. It’s hardest when you don’t achieve what you want, you go home over a weekend and you know you haven’t helped them as well as you could’ve.
“The achievements outweigh the negatives, and even when there are negatives you don’t give up. Once people see that you’ve carried on they tend to come round to the idea. We deal with people’s lives so we have to be aware of that. You need to work together with them.
“We are teaching them how to be independent, we won’t stay forever, but we are there to walk on the journey with them.”
Now you are an award winner, how does it feel to have won?
“It’s like winning the Emmys!
“It means that everybody has noticed my work and are thanking me, not just the people I work with, but the professionals and partners too. They are recognising not just you, but your work, and that can make it easier to try to obtain the next objective.”