Daniel Wilson, 39, is a Housing Officer at YMCA Wimbledon and an integral part of the team supporting residents. Once a resident himself, back in 1997, he knows the place inside out and has been working in the housing team for 13 years.
Over the years he has seen many highs and lows and has supported residents to get back on their feet after a rocky start, “Everyone in life needs guidance,” he says. “Drugs and mental health, and living on the street is a world that I don’t know about, so when I talk to residents I’m learning as much from them as they are learning from me,” he says.
A typical day for Daniel will involve dealing with at least 10 people on a one to one basis: “I help with issues around rent, behaviour and housing management. This building is split in two, with people who come from out of borough, who are assessed but don’t need support, then the other half are those who do need support.”
Daniel is keen to get to know all the residents who don’t need a support worker, and does his best to make contact with them all as they arrive. “I’ve designed self assessment sheets, so that they can give me information about themselves, about how they live, how they consider themselves moving on, how they save their money. I try to meet with every single one of them and give them three small tasks to do, for example open a bank account, or understand which benefits they are entitled to, or go and see the CAT team for more activities available to them. We want to make sure everyone here feels supported in some way.”
The most challenging part of the job for Daniel is carrying out evictions. “I don’t want to see anyone go,” he says. “Recently a resident got into an altercation and I had to explain that our policy is zero tolerance for violence. I can support people to a certain degree, but after that, they have to leave.
“I’m the one to give them their eviction notice and they have a week to organise themselves before leaving. It’s difficult because all their anger and energy is focussed on me. That person has just backtracked to the same position they were in when they first arrived. It’s frustrating.”
And the most rewarding part? “When you see clients who had a drug history, who when they first arrived were not even living but just existing. They then go through the programme, have a detox, do volunteering, put on weight, get themselves back together, get into a relationship, move out to a new place – and then I seem them on the street and they wave at me and call out “Alright Dan!” – that’s great. Seeing that is very rewarding, knowing that all the staff at YMCA have had their input to help the person to move on from that chapter in their lives. “