Day in the Life: Outreach Worker

Here at Maggs, we offer a wide variety of services to help the homeless and vulnerable. We want to showcase what we get up to by putting together a day in the life of each of our departments and how your donations help offer unique, tailored support. 

The second in our ‘Day in the Life’ series is from one of our Outreach Workers and Mental Health and Wellbeing Ambassador, Stef, who gives us an insight into the daily adventures of Outreach.

No two days are the same on Outreach which is what I love about the role. My entry consists of what typical work we do in the role and what to expect in the week ahead. 

Firstly, what do we need to work on Outreach?

One of the absolute essentials for Outreach work is ensuring we have a spare sleeping bag in our cars for emergencies if a service user needs it. Alongside the obvious weather-appropriate equipment such as waterproofs, sun hats etc as you can be anywhere, at any time!

In addition, the team will provide service users with food if they don’t have any money, or vouchers that have been donated to us. We also work with charities that can support for those who need it, such as the local food banks.

We also arrange to collect clothing from our Clothing project, which can be items such as roll mats, pillows, bedding, waterproofs etc, anything they might need to keep safe and warm. Alongside this, we also signpost to local charities that offer free meals so all service users have access to a meal at any point in the day/evening.

6am: Early Morning Search 

Our early morning outreach shift is usually arranged in advance with each team member and includes a designated plan of who is covering what area. My team mainly covers the entire county except Worcester City, where we have designated workers for this area so we’re completely covered countywide.

The morning starts with an outreach search of known hotspots for rough sleepers and check out any areas we feel we need to. I love dark morning early searches with our hi-vis jackets and torches, checking out woodlands and parks shop doorways and so much more. It can be risky but we always work in pairs and have our internal check-in system.

If we manage to locate a rough sleeper, we will gently wake the individual and patiently disclose who we are and we want to help. We are prepared for those that do not appreciate being woken up but we will offer help in whatever capacity they need, and if they agree to the support, we will meet them somewhere nearby once they have woken up properly. We will then sit with them and find out what the situation is that led to them being homeless and what support we can offer. We will often buy them a drink and a small bite to eat, which is also a great excuse for us to have a coffee. 

However, if we do not get a response from the individual, we will explain that we will be opening the tent to complete a welfare check and count down from 3 to 1 and say we are coming in. This is also their chance to say if they don’t want us to, and we do this to check the individual is alive. If there is no one home, we will leave one of our business cards or a note to say we will visit again with a time and date, as not everyone has the means to make a call/text.

Day-to-day on the streets

This is my favourite part about the role!

On Monday mornings, we will have our weekly Outreach team meeting to go through our list of service users and plan our diaries for the week.

This is also an opportunity to see where our colleagues can jointly work to support each other with service users and utilise each other’s skillsets. We then will go off and do our job for the week, which could mean completing outreach in nearby towns and meeting service users. This could be at a local coffee shop to simply have a chat with them to see where they are at and continue any work we have started with them.

Other options could be completing a home visit to support with any concerns they have since they moved in, or setting up bill payments. 

The team and I make an effort to not swamp people with paperwork and keep the meet-ups as relaxed as possible. This helps us especially to find out what the situation is for the individual and build trust and engagement.

We do ensure to get the sharing of information consent and ID as this will enable us to work with the local council and share information with them. 

A bit more about the role itself…

Searching for rough sleepers and supporting them to move away from the streets into suitable housing is a key part of this job. However, this is not always easy as there are many barriers we face in every circumstance such as antisocial behaviour orders (ASBO), addictions, landlord guidelines that mean they don’t ideally want chaotic individuals, having pets which landlords don’t take, private landlords not accepting benefits from DWP for rent… the list goes on!

But with the beauty of Maggs, our team always keeps trying and more often than not, we are the only support they have.

We offer Harm Reduction advice, although for more complex cases, we have Harm reduction workers who are trained, but can offer a small support element such as providing clean equipment to those that need it.

In my opinion, some people say we are enabling our service users but we are simply minimizing harm to them where we can. We know if we didn’t give them these they would find a way and re-use old equipment such as a needle which could then lead to severe, life-threatening illnesses such as Hepatitis C and Aids.

One of our key goals is to simply always be available to listen and support. Building a relationship is not always easy and it can take time for some people but that’s ok, we don’t give up and keep showing up to provide that we want to help.

Unless of course we have been instructed firmly they do not wish for help, we would leave it a short while and try a new approach. Whether this is by a different staff member or liaising with the local Council outreach teams to attempt contact.

We have an array of positive, success stories from our work since Outreach began and are recognised throughout the county, so we know that our bespoke, tailored approach does work whilst also respecting the individual’s wishes.

However, our work isn’t limited to helping the homeless or active clients. If we witness an overdose nearby, we are trained to administrate Naloxone which ultimately reverses an overdose from Heroin. More often than not, the team and I witness reactions to drugs on the streets and have had to intervene. We are first aid trained and mental health first aiders so we are always around to support where needed. 

Benefits

We support individuals to apply for Universal Credit (UC) and Personal Independence Payment (PIP), but mainly support with any other benefits we think they may be entitled to. We’re fortunate to have built a good working relationship with the local job centres across the county and will liaise with them where and when we need to. We also work closely with the local Citizens Advice Bureaus (CAB) across the county as they support us in completing PIP forms correctly, once the client receives them. 

Housing

The team often make referrals to the Local Authority to do a ‘Homeless Approach’, complete Housing register accounts to set up bidding on local social housing and advocate for suitable banding for the Service users.

The team and I work with the local council and attend rough sleeping meetings to discuss who is sleeping rough and their possible locations to ensure we are doing what we can for them to be housed

We will also encourage those who can search for private rent to look on websites and contact private landlords that we work with to source various routes to secure private accommodation.

Following on from this, we can also help with referrals for deposits with the Local council, as well as local charities and organisations which may have deposit bond schemes. 

Once a service user is housed, we work closely with them to sustain a tenancy. This can be from anything with white good referrals, getting furniture and setting up household bills. this can be an ongoing process for a few months, but when we feel this person is managing well we will step back and do less frequent check-ins until Maggs and our service users feel they are ready to be more independent. 

They are made aware that we will close their case but they can also contact their support worker if they need help in the future or be signposted to CAB.

Appointments

Outreach supports our people heavily by making and attending appointments throughout our roles. Attending service users is an extremely important part of the job as an individual may be anxious about attending an appointment with the GP due to ongoing issues or even appointments with Probation.

We liaise with the drug and alcohol agencies across the county, especially Cranstoun as they are the one service that we see most of our service users needing support with. 

Safeguarding

Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility and it is something we take extremely seriously. For example, if we feel that there are concerns around someone’s mental health and capacity and they do not wish to engage with services, we will submit a referral and advocate for our service users to get the support they need. 

Admin time

As much as I love being out in the community, with any role, there is an element of admin that needs to be done.

This includes personal admin for the service users like a referral to mental health agencies or ensuring all records on our Inform system are accurate and up to date. We have to complete risk assessments and support plans, which are all of equal importance.

I like to take time at the start and the end of my day for admin but that may not always be the case as things can change quickly as an outreach worker. 

Other elements of admin time include attending meetings with mental health agencies, GPs and other organisations for complex cases. Sometimes, we even lead the meeting at times, which is where we can all have our input on what we feel the service users need and have our voice heard as we are most often the person who knows them best after building a relationship with them.

Countywide drop-in services

The county outreach team offer a drop-in service in Malvern and Evesham which enables those that we can’t find on the streets to approach us on their terms.

This isn’t just limited to street homeless, as we do get people who are accommodated asking for housing advice. These opportunities allow staff time to speak with the individual and decide what’s best for them if it’s something we can support with or signpost to relevant organisations such as local food larders, CAB, housing drop-in services, job centres… to name a few!

What I like about being an Outreach worker: 

I love the fact no two days are the same and you never know what might occur and take priority.

I thoroughly enjoy supporting people and building up a strong, working relationship and trust with my Service users. I’ll admit that the job can be challenging, but overall it’s incredibly rewarding at times.

I have worked in the community in my previous job as a mental health support worker and I have also tried a desk job but it wasn’t for me. I like the fact I am in the community, manage my diary and can be flexible with my service users and spend time with them even have a game of pool!

The team at Maggs are AMAZING and we don’t take ourselves too seriously. After all, we have to be able to laugh to get us through the harder days, especially if you’re having a bad day. I can guarantee that my colleagues will pick me up and lift my spirits. 

Maggs are very family friendly so I can go to those school sports days and make up the time, I can take my break when I want, there is no set time. On outreach searching woodlands, derelict buildings, towns etc is great for me to get my steps in too!

I strongly advocate for my people and believe in the cause we’re trying to prevent. In my experience, throughout most of their life, they have been told they can’t do this or they can’t do that, which I try to avoid and actively find alternative ways to address an issue. No one knows what life may throw at us so we must be kind, these people are someone’s son/daughter, parent, or child and Maggs’ services are vital in every town/city. 

Everywhere should have something similar it’s a lifeline., a safe space with no judgment.

If you would like to find out more, please email us on info@maggsdaycentre.co.uk.