By Jo Cutts, Housing First Project Assistant, Expert Citizens CIC
I started volunteering at Expert Citizens in the summer of 2014 , I had been in a women’s refuge for domestic abuse for about six months and wanted to give something back, meet new friends (as I didn’t know anyone in stoke) and learn new skills. I’m proud to say I have done all three of those things and lots more. In July 2018 I gained employment with Expert Citizens CIC as a project assistant with Housing First.
My job roles are to recruit, support and train volunteer peer mentors for the service. To help in my role I completed a level three in peer mentoring which Expert Citizens and Staffordshire university co-developed and co-delivered.
Since starting my role I’ve recruited eleven peer mentors, two of which now work within housing first as paid employees, one as a tenancy practitioner and the other a part time support worker – both were also Expert Citizens and had volunteered with us for some time.
I have just started a level four leadership and management course and recently was a speaker at the national Housing First conference led by Homeless Link. This was totally out of my comfort zone as public speaking terrifies me and working with technology isn’t my strong point, but with sweaty palms and a lump in my throat I did it!
Having been involved with Housing First in Stoke-on-Trent for the last two and a half years the purpose of the event was to share the knowledge gained locally on the national stage with other localities that are either currently piloting, or have already established a housing first model. The short film we produced about peer mentoring with the Housing First service in Stoke was a personal highlight for me, exploring the efficacy of peer relationships when providing support, alongside the traditional professional/customer relationship.
I think if it wasn’t for seeing that poster in the refuge advertising for volunteers for Expert Citizens I can honestly say I would have most probably been in the same situation as before as I was starting to feel isolated and missed my family. Going back would have been an easy option, even though it would have been the most deadliest.
But not only am I doing a job I love and am proud of, I have a new extended family with everyone I’ve met through volunteering and my work.
If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more about volunteering with us at Expert Citizens you can contact us via: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Phil on: 07806792015.
Alternatively you can fill in an expression of interest form here and someone will be in touch for an informal chat.