The journey from volunteering to employment at Thames Reach
Alex, assistant support worker in one of our homelessness recovery teams, discusses her career progression from volunteering to employment
Alex is an assistant support worker with the PLACE (Pan-London Accommodation and Community Engagement) team, a service initially set up to help people find sustainable accommodation after receiving support through the government’s Everyone In initiative back in 2020. Prior to this, she volunteered with STAR (Sustaining Tenancies, Accommodation and Resettlement), a homelessness prevention partnership service within Thames Reach. She discusses the journey from volunteering to employment, and how the experience has helped shape her career.
What was your volunteering experience like, and what tasks did you do?
I started out volunteering with the STAR team from January 2021 until November that year. It’s important to do volunteering for a sustained amount of time so that people you are helping have that level of consistency. I was their Romanian-speaking volunteer, and went out on outreach shifts to locations that were known rough sleeping spots. I helped out with translation where we were looking for people with Romanian as their first language; this then evolved into shadowing support workers in the team. I helped with evaluating and following up on client progress, then helped putting together a database of services around London, so we could easily signpost for things such as immigration, legal advice, food banks and mental health.
What is your current role and how is the workload different from volunteering?
I am now assistant support worker with the PLACE team, and have been since November, so I applied for the role while still volunteering. The project was set up to find permanent accommodation from the temporary provisions offered during the Everyone In initiative. We work with housing associations to match tenants with flats, making sure people have the support and signposting they need, whether this is mental health or substance support, and we refer to Thames Reach’s Employment and Skills team regularly too. I have my own caseload and work with people from the start of their recovery journey, and also work as part of the Keeping in Touch service, making sure people are secure in their tenancy once they’ve been placed in accommodation.
What brought you to Thames Reach?
I had been interested in homelessness for a while, and wanted to know exactly how I could help. I wanted to be able to offer direct support for people experiencing homelessness, and really contribute to the good work being done. I also wanted to see the reality of homelessness, as in London you walk past a lot of people who are street homeless but never really get the full story.
What advice would you give to someone considering volunteering?
I gained a lot more than I was expecting from the experience, so I would say keep an open mind and really get involved. It really opened up different ideas and opportunities for me. The team were happy to share their knowledge and expertise with me, so don’t feel worried that you don’t know enough, because it’s definitely a learning experience. I was able to have an overview of all the things I could potentially do in the team, so felt that I was making a difference and getting a lot back.
If you are interested in volunteering with Thames Reach, check out our Volunteers page here or email email@example.com