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Joanne L

Please give an outline of your career to date.

Prior to starting with Simon, I came from a nursing background. I was doing the odd shift here and there with an agency and was asked to do a shift within Simon Community. I did not know what to expect or in fact what the service was. I came in open to learning and enhancing my knowledge on the homeless sector and everything that comes with in. Almost 11 years later I’m still here. Throughout my time I have worked extremely hard to progress, grow and be the best at what I do. I started as a support worker, then moved into a senior practitioner role and now I am in project management. I went back to university whilst working in Simon and completed a degree in health and social care policy and furthered that into management and leadership. I was fully supported throughout this by the organisation. I have worked in 5 different Simon community sites throughout my time in the organisation, with each one with same goal of ending homelessness.

What led you to your role with the charity?

I was doing shifts through an agency and was asked to cover a shift within the Simon community. I had experience in working with individuals who suffered with poor mental health, but I had little to no experience in dealing with people who were in crisis due to being homeless. This was a real eye opener and although our primary referral route is being homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, this is not the only need or support the individuals we assist present with. You may actively be homeless and whilst we can assist with that immediately, other factors such as addiction, poor mental/physical health, breakdown of relationships, debts, self-care and living skills take longer and require a more ad hoc approach.

Describe your role and the work you do?

My role as a project manager is different daily, no 2 days are the same and this is what I love about my job, it keeps the fire in my belly and my brain active. I oversee the general running and management of the projects in the Derry area, and I manage a staff team of 12. Whilst I have a lot of background work to deal with, such as staff supervisions, payroll, end of months, panel referrals, maintenance, building work, audits, and reports. I however still like to have a rapport with all my service users. I want them to understand and know who I am and what my role is and that I am approachable enough to come and speak with about absolutely anything. Empathy, understanding and being open minded is fundamental within this role. Not every day is easy, positive, or successful, but it is about reflecting on the good and not being put off by the challenging tough times.

What’s been the best and most challenging aspects of your job?

There have been equally as many good times as challenging times. Most days you can have a mixture and we never tend to use the Q (quiet) word to often.

I’m sure any job you work in comes with good days and bad and working in Simon is no different.

I can honestly say that that making a difference in so many lives is without a doubt the best aspect of the job. This may be something a small as getting an individual registered with a GP, assisting with benefits, or just sitting having a chat and a cuppa. But on the flip side of that it could be as big as moving an individual who has overcome an array of issues into their own forever home. No 2 individuals are the same, needs differ and that should always be remembered. So, what me and you may think are small irrelevant aspects of life, can mean the most to someone in crisis.

Challenging aspects. Every single day is challenging, as no one freely chooses the life of homelessness. It can be tough when people don’t know their worth or are too proud to accept help or support. But its particularly hard when they refuse to engage and decline all support. Again, we need to be respectful of individuals pasts, trauma, and crisis. Most people haven’t the slightest notion about what others are going through. You could be standing beside someone in a shop who is smiling but has the world on their shoulders.

Being kind is free and should always be practiced.

Why is this work important to you?

It’s important to me as I feel if you are making a difference in the life of at least one individual its job well done. I will always go over and above because this boils down to more than just work and wages.

When you do what you love it’s not work anymore.

How do you relax outside of work?

I enjoy going to the gym, and I have a real passion for music and singing. Socialising with family and friends and spending time with my children. Relaxing outside of work can be difficult at times in such a high pace job but its learning to have that healthy work life balance.

What has been your proudest moment, so far, at Simon?

Since I started with Simon I always wanted to grow and be better at what I do. Offer a better service, be more open minded and to accommodate anyone who was referred in through my doors. I am proud to say, that has never left me, and I still have the attitude that everyone deserves a chance. I am proud of how far I have come and grown within the organisation, and it is only going to get better, because I will never stop attempting to make change. Every once in a while, it’s nice to say “I am proud of me.”

What advice would you give to people considering a similar career path?

Go for it…. what is it you have to lose? If it doesn’t work out, then so be it but at least you haven’t lived with any regrets.

I can’t guarantee everyday will be easy, but I can guarantee it will be worth it and you will be supported, guided, and nurtured within your role to be the best you can possibly be.

I never imagined 11 years ago I would be where I am now. I was a young, shy, nervous girl who didn’t have the first clue. I have grown into someone who is confident, honest, loyal, and open minded to whatever is thrown at me. Not only has this job molded me into the person I am within a work setting, but also make me a happier, kinder person outside of work also.

Interested in starting your journey with Simon Community NI? Click here to view our current opportunities and to apply.