Emma Magee, from Doncaster, was once stuck in an abusive relationship. But after getting the support she needed, Emma was able to move on and rebuild her life.
Now working as an Outreach Support Worker, she tells us how her own personal experience led her to the job she loves.
“If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d be doing a challenging job like this, I wouldn’t have believed you. Back then, I was in an abusive relationship and my confidence was at an all-time low.
“Eventually, I found the strength to leave. With my daughter, who’s now eight, I moved away from the area and into a women’s refuge. The support I got from staff and other women living there was life-changing. My confidence grew and I was looking forward to the future.
“I moved back to Doncaster and continued to get support in my own home from the Riverside Domestic Abuse Service.
“I got into support work through Riverside’s GROW (Giving Real Opportunities for Work) programme. I did a 10-month placement, supporting people with substance misuse. And I really enjoyed it.
“From there, I got a job as a Support Worker at Riverside’s Wharf House Hostel for homeless people. I did that for nine months. In April 2017, I became an Outreach Support Worker, dealing directly with rough sleepers.
“I’ve no doubt that my own experience helps me to do my job. The clients I work with often have their own demons to deal with – and that can be addiction, childhood abuse or mental illness. For some, living on the streets is easier than having the responsibility of managing a home. I understand their fear of change – of struggling to escape from a situation that you’re in. They need support to be able to do that, like I did.
Walking the streets
“In my job, no two days are the same. I usually start with a morning walk around the town, looking for rough sleepers. Working with a colleague, we’ll stop to chat to people to ask if we can help. I might get them a cup of tea or a bite to eat. Later, I could be helping a client fill in a housing application or I might visit their GP with them.
“It can be unpredictable too. Sometimes I have to deal with people who’ve overdosed or been involved in a fight. But we’ve been trained to handle those situations.
“The team is currently supporting around 70 men and women. Our aim is to get them into a sustainable tenancy. But it can take lots of small steps to get to that point. If someone asks for help, then I’ll try to arrange an assessment bed or temporary accommodation for them. Then we’ll create a support package that’s suited to their needs. And they can get help with tasks like cooking, cleaning and managing money.
“It’s a challenging job but it’s very rewarding too. We recently housed a Doncaster man who’d been on the streets for 20 years. After so long living life as a rough sleeper, it’s a massive step for him. And that’s why I love doing this job. After all the good support I’ve had, I want to do the same for others.”
What is Assertive Outreach?
Assertive Outreach provides an intensive, highly co-ordinated support service to rough sleepers in Doncaster.
The service specialises in supporting people with complex needs who may have had difficulty engaging with traditional support.
By providing a service tailored to each individual, it helps people move from the streets into supported housing and, eventually, their own home.
The service depends on effective local partnerships with agencies that specialise in, for example, mental health, substance misuse, domestic abuse and childhood trauma.
The outreach team’s five steps to success!
Communication and engagement
The first step to helping someone is to start a simple conversation. This stage is about developing a relationship with you and building a sense of trust.
Identifying risks and needs
Next, we’ll ask you questions so that we understand how your safety may be at risk and what type of support you’ll need to move off the streets.
This is about us being flexible to your needs – being prepared to fit into your lifestyle and support you at short notice.
You may want support one day and not the next. We’ll persevere and show you
that we’re serious about helping, and building trust.
When you step out of your comfort zone – perhaps by visiting a GP or dentist – it signifies a move towards independence, which deserves recognition and praise.