Sarah Pulci is a team leader at Look Ahead’s Edward Alsop Court, a 79-bed supported housing service in Westminster for men with experience of homelessness and alcohol and substance misuse. As the sector marked Starts at Home day on 1 September, Sarah takes us through her week
I arrive at Edward Alsop Court. First things first: caffeine! After making myself a quick coffee, I check what’s happened over the weekend, whether any customers have gone missing or been in hospital, or if there have been any incidents between customers, or elsewhere, and report this to the area manager.
Many of our customers have been living on the streets for years, which has taken its toll on their health. To avoid hospital admissions and numerous ambulance call-outs, we worked with the local NHS trust and commissioners to set up an in-house medical room. A GP and nurse come to the service throughout the week. A regular Monday task is making sure that any customers who need medical help are on the appointment list.
I also check in on necessary food orders for our service cafeteria. Happy customers are ones that are well fed.
Tuesday is often ‘away-from-desk day’. When possible, we split the team in two and run activities with customers. Customers get a choice of staying on site and enjoying gardening, cooking or another activity, or they can go out for a walk, go to the park or a museum, visit the city farm in Vauxhall, or something else.
We have activities every day, but Tuesday is an opportunity for more of the staff to get involved. We always have a good time, and seeing our customers active and happy is what we are all here for.
An NHS psychologist visits the service on Tuesdays and Fridays. She books appointments with clients on both days and also runs well-being groups with them on Tuesday at 12pm. This is something they really like and the turnout is usually quite good.
Even though she usually supports customers, the first Tuesday of the month is a chance for staff to meet her, for reflective practice sessions. It gives us an opportunity to discuss any issues or difficulties customers may have, and how to better support them.
Sometimes staff may get advice and support, too, especially if a customer receiving palliative care passes away. This always hits us hard.
This is usually the quietest day of the week. We run special activities, such as our monthly customer meeting, over breakfast. Customers can provide feedback to us about any issues they have, what their preferences are for activities and food, and any repairs they may need.
We also run health days with the on-site nurse, discussing everything from harm minimisation to eating properly.
Then I book in any additional meetings and spend time on other work.
A team leader usually attends a community meeting with the police on Thursdays, to report anti-social behaviour and any other problems we notice locally.
We also meet commissioners to discuss void rooms and move-on for some of our older customers who may be getting ready to take up their next placement, at a care home, for example. I often meet a social worker to discuss difficult cases, as well.
We get to see our colleagues from Turning Point, too, who come in to discuss substance misuse and future detox or rehab with clients.
At the handover, every member of staff updates the rest of the team on how their customers are doing, and raise any other matters that need attention. This is crucial. It means our staff have all they need to support customers to the best of their ability.
I always make sure to also catch up with our in-house maintenance man and our psychologist, to make sure repairs are dealt with promptly and clients’ complex cases are discussed.
Next up is the weekend for a quick rest before we do it all again. That is, if I’m not on duty at the weekend.