What is your career background and how did you come to volunteer for Launchpad?
I was an accountant for 42 years and I retired in 2016, and did a few years of volunteering at Citizens Advice Bureau. I wanted to try a different volunteering experience and someone pointed me in the direction of Launchpad.
Helping people who are homeless or at risk of losing their home is an important cause – we are all a few moves away from being on the streets so I was really interested in helping out.
When I joined Launchpad everyone was enthusiastic and helpful – and really passionate about making a difference. It is great working with a group of young people too.
What does your role at drop-in entail?
The drop-in service is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week from 10am to 2pm and is based at The Stables in Merchants Place. Anyone who is having an issue with their housing can come along for information and support. I volunteer on Wednesdays and with the other volunteers on shift, sit down with anyone who comes to the door and work out what type of help they need.
The people we see might be street homeless or sofa surfing, unable to read or respond to bills, worried about debt and how they’re going to pay their rent, or they could be being threatened with eviction. We get a real mix of housing situations and can help in lots of different ways.
We signpost to other services to tackle issues like mental health or addition; refer them to Launchpad’s floating support service if more help is needed to address the housing problem; provide legal advice via our housing solicitor; or assist with making calls or filling in forms.
I think working in finance has helped me in this role, as we often speak with clients about benefits and debt.
Can you give an example of a client you helped?
There was a guy who came in who was having a particularly difficult time – he was from Africa and his wife was really ill with cancer, and he had five children to support. He was on the brink of losing his home. We worked with him to get his benefits sorted so he could pay his rent and the bills, and feed his family, and our housing solicitor made sure the family weren’t evicted and could stay in their home. It was so great to help them come out the other side of their ordeal – there was a lot of satisfaction in that.
What do you like doing in your spare time?
I have Parkinson’s Disease and one of the things you are encouraged to do is to keep fit – I’m a keen runner so I’m trying to get back into that and I’d like to do a half marathon next year. I do a lot of walking, cycling and play golf. Very badly!