A day in the life of an outreach worker


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In last month’s blog post we discussed what our outreach workers do and why it matters. This week, we explore a typical day in the life of an outreach worker. What does a day look like when you’re supporting people experiencing homelessness? 

Our outreach workers provide support to people who are homeless. They are out there in the morning, at night and in the day, delivering support to people who are homeless or in unsafe accommodation. Individuals who are often at a very vulnerable stage in their lives.

No two days are ever the same for our outreach workers. Our Bradford outreach worker gave us a rundown of one of her days. Her day-to-day work consists of outreach on the streets and providing person-centred support. 

A day in the life of an outreach worker.

My day begins with early morning outreach on the streets of Bradford. After that, I begin supporting my clients with their individual needs. I work with people who are rough sleeping, in temporary accommodation or about to move into a place of their own. During the day I’ll meet with people I’m supporting and offer practical and emotional support. 

Early morning outreach.

Early in the morning, I join the Bradford Homeless Outreach Partnership to go on outreach around the city centre. We’re looking for anyone sleeping rough who needs support. We also check for rough sleepers who have been reported to us by members of the public. If we find someone, we’ll talk to them about support available. If they want to access temporary accommodation, we help them to do this. 

Quick thinking and problem solving. 

As an outreach worker, we need to be able to react to situations quickly and consider the best course of action. For example, this morning, we found someone sleeping rough who told us he was no longer taking his prescription for methadone, but he wanted to start taking it again. This was great news. I was able to contact his drugs worker there and then. An appointment was made for him to meet his worker to get his prescription restarted. I also talked to him about staying in temporary accommodation. He agreed to this and we accompanied him there to help him check in. 

It’s all about the person.

Another person we saw rough sleeping had recently moved into a flat of their own. However, they had left it and returned to the streets. I’ve seen this happen before. Living in a place of their own can be overwhelming. Some people find the change from sleeping rough to living inside too different, and too lonely. This individual was hostile and didn’t want to talk to me. I’m going to keep going back, in the hope that one day they will feel ready to accept my help. We never push people to do something they don’t want to and we’ll always work to their speed. 

Their goals and aspirations. 

After early morning outreach, I begin visiting my clients. We support our clients to meet their own goals and aspirations. Each person has their own unique goals, so every day is different.   

The first person I visit is Brenda*. Brenda recently left her abusive partner and is now in safe accommodation, although understandably still very fearful. Her main goal right now is to see her child regularly again. We talked through her plans for her next child visit and discussed any support she needed for the big day.   

I then visit Gavin*, who is currently staying in temporary accommodation. He has painful abscesses on his leg due to drug use. I booked him in for a doctor’s appointment and we had a chat about how he’s doing over a cup of tea. Before I go, I remind him that his methadone prescription is available to pick up tomorrow. 

Being there when there’s bad news. 

Between visits, I ring a local housing provider to find out the outcome of a housing assessment for one of my clients. They've had their heart set on getting into this particular supported accommodation. They see it as their way to move forward with their life. The news wasn't good – I’m told they'd not been placed there. I call my client and they’re understandably upset. We talk through other housing options and they agree to try applying with a different provider. I arrange to meet them tomorrow to begin going forward with this. 

Unlimited support. 

Towards the end of the day, another client called Rob* calls me. I’ve worked with Rob for over two years and have supported him both when he’s slept rough and when he’s been in accommodation. Rob is currently doing really well in supported accommodation. He phoned to ask me if he could go food shopping with me. He’s still getting used to managing his own money and planning his meals. I arranged to go food shopping with him tomorrow. 

Checking In. 

Before I finish work for the day, I do a final check in with someone who has been sleeping rough for a while. I visited his tent and we sat and spoke. Sometimes, this is the most important thing you can do for a person at that time. He told me that he’d run into an old friend who didn’t know he was homeless. Upset that his friend had seen him on the streets, but not feeling ready to move into housing yet, he felt low and at a loss. I asked him if there was anything he might want to do now. He said he’d like to make contact with his Mum, who he’s been estranged from. We put a plan in place to begin this.

Could you support our work with the homeless in West Yorkshire? This August, our CEO, Natalie Moran, is taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks to raise vital funds for the homeless. That's 26 miles in one day! Can you take on the challenge to walk 26 miles this August and change the lives of those who are homeless? Sign up today to Walk with Simon

*Real names not used

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