From our staff: a blog from Sean Smith

We’re going to be running a new feature where we talk to our members of staff about their work at SSJ and why they love working here.

We have hundreds of members of staff from unique and interesting backgrounds, some have been with us for years, others have come to us because they believe in our vision to end homelessness – and some have been service users for SSJ and now work with us to support others in a similar situation to what they were in.

Today we have a blog written by Sean Smith, a team leader for SSJ who works with some of of the most vulnerable people at SSJ. Sean has been with us a few years and wanted to write about why he loves working for SSJ.

Sean Smith:

I have worked with a variety of vulnerable adults and children across Hampshire for 22 years. After frequently working in partnership with them for many of these years, in 2019 I was lucky enough to land myself a job with the Society of St James. I had applied for positions previously, and it was no secret to my now-boss that I had been desperate to join him at SSJ for aeons, but hadn’t found the right vacancy that suited my skillset and experience.

All of a sudden, the chance to take the reins of a pioneering “housing first”-style service came to my attention. It was a no brainer and I applied. Getting the phone call to tell me I was successful was a moment of sheer elation. Next thing I knew, I was working for an inclusive, supportive charity that felt more like a family or a group of old friends than what I had experienced previously. Then, of course, the entire world went bonkers and we all faced a two-year period the likes of which we could have never imagined.

Throughout the uncertain, often desolate, always challenging pandemic period, I was privileged to be tasked with guiding and building the Supported Lettings Team, which provides intense, almost bespoke, psychologically and trauma-informed support for clients with long, chequered histories of homelessness, complex substance misuse and mental illness. I had moved from a businesslike, politics driven prior role to one where I looked forward to waking up each day to find out what the day held in store, working alongside and hopefully helping to nurture a team of dedicated, talented and hardworking staff.

The pandemic was a challenge we all met head-on, and gave me and my team some work experiences that we will probably never encounter again. Having to face scowling faced members of the public as we bulk shopped dry goods for our clients in supermarkets. Driving around the City trying to find hand sanitiser. Finding hand sanitiser that was made from a premium brand of gin.

Administering so may lateral flow tests that I could probably now do one with a blindfold on. Attempting to try and enforce a litany of social distancing rules and regulations with clients that have no intention of following protocols. Discovering the magical, buffering-tastic hinterland that is the online meeting. I loved it all really. I wouldn’t want to do it all again though.

I was privileged to be tasked with establishing not one but two brand new services for the Society, which are still going strong and in the case of the Supported Lettings Team, have expanded. I have had an amazing opportunity to work with some of the most unique, complex and rewarding clients. I now have some fascinating partnership working with a specialist NHS team, and work within a sector and with clients that very few people ever get to experience.

I am based in a beautiful house that has been developed and renovated with an eye on providing a homely, psychologically informed environment. I am seeing positive results. I see amazing staff doing amazing things with people that have gone through unimaginable trauma in their lives. I am so proud to be a part of it. Every day is different – I continue to encounter learning opportunities and am broadening my knowledge and experience at every turn, supported by a wonderful staff and a supportive management structure.

Coming to work for SSJ is the best decision I ever made. I am now in a role that combines all of my previous experiences, with the added responsibility of guiding and supporting other staff. With the successful tenders and expansion within Hampshire and beyond, I work for an organisation that I am genuinely proud of, and will happily sing the praises of each and every service under its umbrella from the rooftops.

Thank you to Sean for taking time to write about his work at SSJ

There are many ways to support SSJ, you can donate to help support people without a home, find out more about other ways you can support us, or if you are like Sean, maybe you’d like to work for SSJ – and you can find out about jobs we have available here.