Staff spotlight: Kenny, Navigator

What is your role at Emmanuel House?

I work within Emmanuel House’s Single Support Service, which supports people who are rough sleeping and street homeless. It is hands-on, frontline support for rough sleepers and my job is to ensure the wellbeing and safety of the beneficiaries I work with. I often support them to access a GP, or services related to substance misuse or mental health needs and find appropriate accommodation. After I support our beneficiaries into accommodation, I provide tenancy support. This could involve setting up utilities, payment plans for bills, getting furniture, as well as attending appointments with other agencies. 

Most recently I’ve been concentrating on supporting beneficiaries to move out of the emergency accommodation at the hotel and finding them appropriate accommodation to suit their needs.

Who do you work with?

I work with people who are rough sleeping and have complex needs, such as mental illness, substance misuse or offending histories. I often work with people who are ‘entrenched rough sleepers’ – people who have been sleeping rough for a long time, or who struggle to engage with change  or have particular complex needs affecting their ability to follow advice. Often they are unable to cope with private rented accommodation and unable to keep up with bill payments.

How does your job work?

When someone has been referred to the Single Support Service, often through the Street Outreach Team or the city council, I liaise with other relevant support services they may have previously engaged with for specific needs and conduct a thorough risk assessment.

I then visit the place where they are sleeping. If I haven’t met them before, I go with the referrer so that we know what they look like. We assess their support needs to ascertain what they want and need. I then work with them to find the most suitable accommodation. The main challenges are if a person is not eligible for Housing Aid, the statutory homeless provision within the Nottingham City area, or if a person is unable to cope with private-rented accommodation, due to their support needs.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

During the pandemic, restricted access to public spaces like Emmanuel House or public libraries made our job quite challenging.

When Emmanuel House Support Centre was closed for casual drop-in during the pandemic, we still managed to support our beneficiaries despite all the complex changes. We’ve all managed to adapt to a new way of life and are doing our best to work with these obstacles.

Why do you work at Emmanuel House?

The whole team at Emmanuel House is an amazing group of people. Everyone’s priority is care and quality, and that ethos is contagious – it rubs off on you. Everything we do is about caring for our beneficiaries. We work with one of society’s most vulnerable groups of people, so it can be equally rewarding and challenging. We aren’t working with lots of money or big budgets, so our job relies on the dedication and caring nature of the staff.

What impact does your role have on the people you work with?

The impact of my role really differs from person to person, depending on their unique level of support needs. We strive to provide services that meet basic needs and empower individuals to make positive change in their lives. Some people are appreciative and some people take it for granted, but we’re always trying. It is very rewarding when we do see people positively move on.

I’ve been working with Peter* for a few years. He was 59 when he first arrived at our Night Shelter. He had got into debt with the council and was evicted from his council property. He didn’t know where to go. He had been sleeping on the streets for a few nights when the Street Outreach Team found him and referred him to the Night Shelter.

When I first met Peter*, he was presenting with a level of learning disabilities. I found him a room at the YMCA hostel, where I visited him once a week. I supported him with his benefits applications and arranged a GP assessment. He was eligible for a small level of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), as he had a long-term mental health disability. He made regular visits to Emmanuel House for a shower, clothes, food and emotional support. His social skills and confidence improved. Having someone to talk to about his interests had a huge impact on his mental health.

He was living at the YMCA for a year and a half. In the summer of 2021, I found him a flat with a local housing association. He was anxious about the move and was reluctant to go because he felt settled at the hostel. I arranged for us to have a cup of tea with the accommodation’s warden to reassure him it was the most suitable accommodation for his needs. I made provisions for him to get new furniture, a fridge and a cooker. Because of the current Covid restrictions, I’m unable to visit him at his property, but we have weekly phone calls. He is still living there happily and independently.

What impact does your role have on the local community?

Everyone is susceptible to becoming homeless. It’s true that we’re only two wage packets away from being on the streets. We take a truly non-judgemental approach to everyone we meet – you never know when you are going to need this kind of support. Being able to offer this kind of service and support to anyone who is at risk of homelessness has a big impact on our society.