Mahmoud Haider, Resettlement Worker

Mahmoud Haider recently joined SHP as a Resettlement Worker in the Lambeth PRS team and has been working on move on for former rough sleepers who’ve been housed in hotels by the GLA. Here he reflects on the rewards and challenges of his role.  

I joined SHP only eight weeks ago and due to the COVID-19 situation it’s been a bit of a baptism of fire!  

I’m involved in the GLA hotel decant scheme, working all across London to support people from the hotels into private-rented sector accommodation (PRS). I’ve supported about 25 people into their own accommodation over the last two months. 

Though it’s a team effort, I spend much of the time working alone, supporting clients through the whole process, from referral to visiting the property to moving in. At the start, it’s all about getting them assessed, ensuring they have the right documentation, that their benefits are in order, and knowing what they want from a property and the location. 

The next step is finding the right property.  While we have a lot of properties available due to the wide support for the programme, I’m still often searching online myself and calling letting agents and landlords to find the right one.  

One of the biggest challenges is engaging some of the people we’re working with. Many are entrenched rough sleepers who have been living on the streets on and off for months, if not years. They likely have high support needs in other areas as well, and many past experiences with services, not all of them positive - sometimes you can just tell that they see me wearing a lanyard and they immediately switch off....

The best way to work with these clients is just to be patient. Give them time to move things at the speed they are happy with. 

Emily* was one client like this. She has a long history of rough sleeping, having spent the last 6-7 years on the streets or in temporary accommodation, such as living with her ex-boyfriend. The time on the streets has impacted her physical health, mainly affecting her ability to walk. 

While it was easy to get her involved in the process, she became very anxious about visiting a property we identified. She thought it would be a waste of her time after previous experiences like these. With the support of her key worker and the hotel staff, I managed to convince her to visit after her third appointment. 

I call clients to give them daily updates on how things are going, so they know they aren’t forgotten about and that they are not just a name or number on a screen. I care and want them to know I’m doing everything possible to help them. 

It’s the same when clients are housed. Longer term, I think many of the people we’re working with will be okay to sustain their tenancy independently, but SHP will be here to help if they do need further support. I’m providing a bridge to that support until things begin to become more normal. Often there are issues with properties, so it’s on me to chase up landlords to sort things out. 

I help the clients with a range of other things as well - obtaining food vouchers before Universal Credit kicks in, setting up water and electricity, getting them set up with a bank account and card, benefit adjustments, and so on. Often a client will be hard to get hold of for days, but then suddenly they will need you urgently!  

It’s not the easiest role, with so many people to support, so many things to do and the many organisations involved, but I enjoy it. 

Indeed, back to Emily*. On that third visit, as soon as she stepped in the building, she said yes. It took her about five seconds. Her face lit up; she was so happy with it. 

For someone with her past, who hasn’t had her own address ever, this is more than just a room and roof, it’s a place she can now begin to call home. And that makes it all worthwhile.