Behind Closed Doors

When not blogging and trying to do a part time degree my day job is as a community outreach worker for unemployed focusing on those with housing and homelessness issues with other people with general vulnerabilities thrown in for good measure. It’s a varied role that sees me pottering around Leeds and connecting with all walks of life and as a general rule I love it.

I think though I’ve become a bit complacent in the role. Over the last couple of months I’ve had an influx of under 25’s on my caseload. These young people have for various reasons found that they can’t go home and are sleeping on various sofas across the city. Some have found they have issues managing money and have lost homes, some have fallen out with family members, and one sadly has parents that can’t understand having a gay son. But they are all coping fine, most have moved onto supported housing or shared housing and we’re moving forward.

Today though has been about meeting new customers and with them has come a whole range of horror stories that has left me wondering what is wrong with this world and humanity. I’ve seen kids fleeing violent parents, child sexual abuse, mental breakdowns, extortion and a guy worried about his 15 year old niece potentially having her child taken off her. Yes just 15 and a mother. And that was just before lunch!

This afternoon I met a Portuguese girl, just 20 and new to the country. She has come with legal custody of her 14 year old brother. They are currently sharing a sofa of a friend’s studio flat. Their violent father is in a Portuguese prison and mother is also back home unemployed with 5 other kids to feed! Whatever your feelings on immigration the fact remains that this poor girl wanted to better herself and has found herself lost in a sea of housing and schooling 9for her brother) bureaucracy and no idea of how to move forward. My phone call on her behalf to one council department suggested she walk into a local school and ask to register her brother. She barely managed to explain herself to me – asking for school applications papers and a copy of the Ofsted report is a bit beyond her. Luckily they are willing to offer support so we have one issue starting to resolve itself.

One thing I noticed though is my emotional resilience to these things is improving. A few years ago I started counselling training and would get upset even just listening to role play examples. I would take too much on board. My empathy levels are quite strong. I was probably too close to my won breakdown to be strong enough to handle other people’s traumas. Today I am still empathetic and while I was still thinking about how to resolve some of my customer problems (who to talk to, training options and so on) I found it easier to unwind than I have. A trip to Nando’s with my son and some cheesy movies brought my stress levels back down to normal (as normal as I’ll ever be!)

Tomorrow’s another day as they say and I wonder what it will bring

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