Simon Community | Maureen W
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Maureen W

Please give an outline of your career to date.

I started working for Simon Community NI as part of the bank staff in June 2018. This didn’t last long as around August 2018 I started working full-time in Malone Foyer. In April 2019 I got the opportunity to work as Participation Worker among the young people’s hostels, Malone Road, 242 Antrim Road and Mount Street Mews. Unfortunately, I only got the end of that funding which ended in September 2019 and I went back to ESP. In September 2021, I joined the company full time again as Women’s Advocacy worker.

What lead you to your role with the charity?

I completed a degree in Psychology in University of Ulster, Coleraine. During my placement year I got the opportunity to go down to work in Dublin Simon Community and I found that I had a passion for working in the Homeless Sector. When I finished my degree, I moved to Belfast and I joined Simon Community NI.

For my current role, I seen the advertisement pop up and I thought it would be a great opportunity. From working as a participation worker, I knew I wanted another job that let me go around the hostels meeting new people and I was always keeping an eye out for a post that fit that criterion. After reading through the job description, it was a no brainer.

Describe your role and the work you do?

My current role as Women’s Advocacy worker involves working in 7 of the hostels between Belfast, Lisburn & Bangor. I work with Women on a one-one basis and groups. The women involved present with different needs and the program follows the approach of no women will be turned away. Individual sessions are one-to-one case working with the women. The sessions are designed around the women’s individual needs, in which the women are involved in the planning, as it follows a person-centered care approach. The group work is issue based which is offered in response to a specific request for advice or advocacy. This is in line with the needs of the women of the hostel such as information sessions on what is a healthy relationship.

The aims of this service is to help women feel safe and secure while accessing Simon Community Hostels, empowering and educating women to enable them to make positive decisions that will have an impact on their lives, and help break down any barriers that they may face as a women facing homelessness.

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

One of the best aspects of the job is being able to get out to the different hostels and meet the women. When you listen to their stories, not one is the same and you can really see their personalities shine through.

Another great aspect is when you’re helping the client put the right support in place and everything starts to fall into place and it gives the client hope for the future.

However, with that being said, it would be great to have a magic wand and sometimes no matter how much myself, the client and other staff members do sometimes it’s not enough due to lack of services available. That can be quite disheartening.

Why is this work important to you?

I think its important as there can be so much stigma around someone being homeless, when in reality it can happen so easily to anyone. Everyone deserves to find a place to feel safe and secure and I hope that I can help people achieve that through this line of work.

How do you relax outside of work?

I like to spend time with my family, friends and two wee dogs. My partner and I would take the dogs out walking and we take trips up North to see our families. It’s always nice to see our parents and my nieces and nephew. I like to keep myself busy when I’m not working through swimming, walking, getting coffee with friends or reading. Any chance I can get I try to book a holiday or a weekend away.

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

I think in general when you see a huge different in clients from when they first arrive into hostels to when they get the keys to their home, its such a heart-warming experience and you can’t help but be proud of how far they’ve come.

As a staff member at Simon Community I’m proud of how far they’ve come on as an organisation, I might be a bit biased, but identifying that there have been more women becoming homeless and taking action by adding additional support is great to see. Not only just with the Women’s Advocacy post but new roles that they are adding to support the needs of the clients.

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

If you’re looking for something different than the 9-5 office lifestyle, this would be a job for you! No two days are the same and its refreshing to get out to meet new people.