Whilst studying psychology at university, one of the areas I took a particular interest in was mental health. I knew that I always wanted to help vulnerable people, so after graduating I started work as a project officer at a homeless charity in Kent. This opened my eyes to the massive homelessness problem not only in the local area but in society in general, and I really wanted to help. So when I saw the position as a Mental Health Support Worker at one of Look Ahead’s homelessness and complex needs services in Westminster, it made complete sense for me to go for it.
Before Look Ahead, I was a night club medic and my nights would consist of helping people who had drank too much or taken something they shouldn’t have, or even comforting girls who were crying because their boyfriend was dancing with someone else! What I really enjoyed about that job was connecting with people and that’s really what made me realise that support work was for me.
As a trans person, entering new environments can be difficult; there’s often a lot of hoops I have to jump through or a lot of questions I have to answer. What struck me when joining Look Ahead was how little I had to explain myself. On my first day at the service, I was asked once how I identified and from then on I have never been misgendered. My colleagues have all been aware and have treated me fairly and respectfully. I think Look Ahead is a naturally diverse environment, and I’ve not worked in a place like that before.
“I have been really impressed with how Look Ahead have approached inclusion and diversity during my time here”
The customers at our service are quite a dynamic client group, who have a range of needs including mental health, drug and alcohol misuse or homelessness. What I have found at Look Ahead is that there is a lot more understanding of the trauma that can come with these issues, and creating a psychologically involved environment goes a long way to helping the customers we work with. It’s about recognising some of the reasons behind people’s behaviours, working to understand them and helping them develop different coping strategies. A lot of my job is working directly with customers, helping them to identify goals, work towards them and start to take control of their lives.
I have also had the opportunity to take part in Look Ahead’s Experts by Experience programme, where I run training sessions on LGBT+ issues, helping our staff gain a deeper understanding and become allies of the community. I have been really impressed with how Look Ahead have approached inclusion and diversity during my time here. It’s so important to have diverse staff teams that both work together and reflect those that we support, so that together we can achieve the best outcomes.
Jaz also appears in our new diversity and inclusion video, which can be viewed on our YouTube page.