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What I do at Glass Door

I’m the multiple disadvantage caseworker, and have worked at Glass Door for a year. Most of the caseworkers do a combination of drop-in sessions and managing a caseload of guests, whereas I only work with a set caseload of guests who have multiple disadvantages. These guests could: 

  • Have complex mental health issues 
  • Have substance abuse issues 
  • Be fleeing domestic abuse 
  • Have a history of entrenched rough sleeping, for instance they could have been rough sleeping for decades 
  • Have been through many homelessness services but never accessed stable, longer term accommodation 
  • Have worked with Glass Door for a long time but have an ongoing set of circumstances which mean a solution hasn’t been reached 

Overall, I work with guests who need more intensive support. For my job I get to travel around London, doing home visits, going with guests to hospital or court appointments, or meeting other professionals with them.  

The main challenges of being a caseworker

My main priority is building good relationships with the guests. These might be people who have passed through statutory services, other homelessness charities, different hostels, supported accommodation, the prison system and/or hospitals. They may have worked for many years with different professionals and be quite suspicious of them. A huge part of my job is developing trust with guests and encouraging them to engage in processes that will enable them to leave homelessness behind. 

The other side of that dynamic is making sure that I’m very boundaried. I have to make sure I’m helping them in a useful and ethical way. I aim to empower them to become more independent where they can and make positive changes in their lives, and to feel able to make decisions and not rely on services wherever possible. It’s about getting the balance between that and the relationship building. You want to avoid a situation where you are doing absolutely everything for someone, or where you are trying to help them on your own when actually you need to be linking them with other services. 

The skills I need to do my job

You have to have a lot of patience and empathy to do this job. It also really helps to be resilient and have a sense of humour, because in this line of work things can get heavy. When you’re working with people who are traumatised there is potential for vicarious trauma, so you have to know when to take space and how to look after yourself, otherwise it’s not sustainable.   

It’s also really important to be able to acknowledge when I can do something and when I can’t. From working in different environments with a similar client group, I’ve learnt over time to ask ‘Am I the right person to help them with this? Or is this outside of my skillset? Would it be safer and better if someone else helped them with this?’ I’ve learnt how to link people up with services, and how to be with them through that process, doing my best to encourage them and make them feel safe so they feel they can engage with those services.  

This job involves lots of multi-agency working; often I’ve built a really good relationship with a guest so I’m in a good position to facilitate meetings between the guests and other professionals like GPs our housing officers, meaning I can bridge that gap rather than just sending them off and hoping for the best. 

What I like about my job

I really like talking! So it’s great getting to talk to people all day every day and meet a whole range of people. It’s also great not being stuck behind a desk, it suits me very well.  

When you achieve something you’ve been working on for ages it’s so rewarding. Because the guests I work with have multiple and often overlapping needs, it can take months to get different things sorted out, so it feels really good when that happens.  

I also think there is a really good culture and system of support at Glass Door. We have regular Reflective Practice sessions which are an opportunity to talk about anything we have found difficult or saddening in our work. Having this dedicated space means we don’t have to keep anything in, and know we are allowed to express the feelings that are inevitable from working closely with people who are having a hard time. Also, everyone is so supportive and lovely. You can turn to your colleague and say ‘this sad thing happened’ and they will be understanding and comforting. It’s a really safe work environment.  

What I would like people to know about homelessness

All sorts of things can lead to someone experiencing homelessness, such as losing a job, bereavement and grief or having a mental health crisis. These are things which could happen to anyone, regardless of their background or life up until that point. As a society we need to have empathy for people, and we need to look after each other.  

Find out more about our casework service