From volunteering to support worker – JC’s story

My name is JC and I have been working in the homeless sector for 15 years. 

I started as a receptionist with ThamesReach back in 2000. Part of my induction was to shadow outreach service shifts and spend a day at their older person hostel. I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed it and I told this to my then CEO Jeremy Swain. He encouraged me to volunteer, telling me that once I had gained enough experience I would be able to apply for full-time paid position. I took Jeremy’s advice and signed up to volunteer with London Street Rescue and Robertson Street Older Person Hostel.

I really enjoyed my volunteering, they were very different roles. London Street Rescue was an outreach service that worked every day of the year. We used to meet at Graham House hostel, have dinner with clients and staff before we headed out with a list of rough sleepers who we had to find and assist with emergency accommodation off the streets. 

I found this role challenging, as each rough sleeper we met had different, and various support needs. Most of the time people were really pleased to be met and supported to get off the streets, but at times we were faced with people who had very challenging behaviour. Who would refuse the help offered? As an outreach service you never give up on a rough sleepers. You will continue to support and explore housing options available and suitable for as long as it takes. 

After a year I had gained enough experience to start applying for jobs. I started completing applications and was successful in getting shortlisted. I found the interviews quite difficult, so I asked a member of staff in the services to help me. We did some dummy interviews and I built up my confidence. It wasn’t until my third interview that I was successful in being appointed as a support worker in a supported housing team. After this time a housing support worker post became available and I was encouraged by my manager and colleagues to apply for it. I stayed in this post for 10 years and gained enough experience to move into different areas of homelessness. 

15 years later and I’m still working in the homelessness sector and I love it. At Providence Row I work within the Routes to Roots team who support homeless hospital patients at the local Royal London Hospital. Together with my colleagues Maria and Pooja, we ensure people who are often suffering from serious medical conditions get the support they’re entitled to and don’t end up back on the streets. 

I look back over my career and I sometimes ask myself would I change anything? Nah! I wouldn’t because I’ve been lucky enough to work with wonderful people (and my colleagues haven’t been too bad either).

Interested in volunteering like JC? Find out more about our volunteering opportunities...