Elena is a Support Worker at our Kensington and Chelsea homelessness and complex needs services. She has played a valuable role in building relationships between Look Ahead and key local partners.
I joined Look Ahead when they took over a service contract back in 2021. I had the choice to be redeployed by my previous employer or transfer over. I was curious about Look Ahead. I wanted to see how they support individuals who have multiple needs, and experience of homelessness.
I have a background in community organising and empowering marginalised people, and a provider’s ability to do the same is important for me. I was so impressed by Look Ahead’s commitment to social inclusion, how they engaged both customers and staff. I used to take policymakers from abroad and show them best practice in care, so I know quality when I see it. I decided to join the team.
I had an awesome six-month transition and induction process, my manager and colleagues offered us great training, showed passion for person-centred support, and encouraged and enabled customers to make positive changes.
I’ve been loving it ever since. No two days are the same when you’re a support worker. My customers are very diverse, in culture, backgrounds, and needs. They may have experienced substance misuse, or social isolation, they may also have mental health support needs, or have been involved with the police in the past. Every person’s needs differ, some are more complex than others, but one thing we share is the joy we both feel as they progress. One day, I’m encouraging someone to learn new skills and try activities like gardening, and the next, I’m helping a customer choose furniture for their new home as they move on into more independent housing.
Another part of my job that I love is the fantastic partnerships I’ve helped cultivate with local services. Our customers’ needs vary, so it’s only natural that we would work with a range of partners too. We’ve worked with GPs, the community mental health team, the local Age UK branch, Turning Point for drug and alcohol-related support, and the police to name a few. These partnerships are really beneficial, they increase the quality of support and care customers receive and show them that an entire network is behind them.
I truly understood the scale of these partnerships when I organised an event about a year ago. I love bringing people together, and I wanted to create an informal environment where customers and service providers from the police to local councillors could mingle and get to know each other. Over 45 people attended and broke bread together. Customers shared their stories, which were immensely valuable for the other guests to hear. The icing on the cake was that we had the pleasure of welcoming Look Ahead’s CEO Chris Hampson. The event took months of planning, but my manager and colleagues were fully behind me the entire time. A year on, customers are asking me about the next one. I really couldn’t have asked for more.