Earlier this year, Bruno Ornelas joined Concrete as our new Head of Homelessness and Complex Needs. Bruno started his career in homelessness as a volunteer, before taking on different roles in rough sleeping outreach and hostels.
At Concrete, we believe that everyone deserves a good home where they feel safe and secure. Bruno is leading our teams as they work to achieve this goal and make homelessness history in Stoke-on-Trent and its surrounding areas.
We sat down with Bruno to discover his plans, what he’s most passionate about and his advice for anyone wanting to work in the homelessness sector. Read the full interview below:
Hi Bruno! Could you tell us about your role as Head of Homelessness and Complex Needs?
My role involves overseeing several different services and projects. This includes mental health, homelessness, young person’s provision and working closely with people with lived experience.
What are your plans for the role?
Concrete has really good ambitions, all based on the simple truth that everyone deserves a home. I’ll be working with teams internally – and partners – to achieve that and give the best offer that we can to the people who need it the most.
How did you start your career in the homelessness sector?
I started as a volunteer in London. From there, I did rough sleeping outreach work, before moving on to manage hostels and oversee different services. I’ve always stayed in the sector and probably always will, because I can see the significant difference that it makes to people’s lives.
What would you say to someone considering a career in the homelessness sector?
I would say don’t worry too much if you’ve got the right skillset or not – you probably do. The fact that you’re asking shows that it’s something that you want to do. Take the first step, which is sometimes just contacting an organisation, like us at Concrete. There’s lots of different opportunities, so let us know what you’d like to do, and how you think you can contribute.
Why do you think there are so many misconceptions surrounding homelessness?
There’s a lack of knowledge and a lack of understanding. One of the main things which really gets in the way is when we simplify people’s experience by saying it’s a personal choice. Homelessness is often a symptom of things like long term trauma, and just providing a house is absolutely part of the solution, but with that must come wraparound support.
How can people help people who are experiencing homelessness?
If people want to help, for example if they find someone rough sleeping, get in touch with services. There’s a rough sleeper’s outreach team that works with people who are on the street. Listen to people and understand that there is a unique story there, which means that the solution will probably be unique to the person as well.
What are you most proud of?
In a previous role, I had the opportunity to specialise in adult safeguarding. Through that, I was able to engage with different local authorities and services. I was also asked to do a safeguarding adult review, which I’m really proud of. It was a difficult piece of work because it involved a set of tough circumstances, but, it had a really positive impact as we were able to learn from a particular authority and see what they were going to change.
When you’re not making homelessness history, what are you doing in your spare time?
I’ve got two kids and a dog, so they keep me busy. My spare time is often their spare time. We try and arrange different things for them to do, and we like doing different walks. We go to the Peak District and go camping. My spare time is very family based, but always really busy.
Who is your favourite author?
My favourite author is George Orwell. I love his book, ‘Down and Out in London and Paris,’ which is a book largely about homelessness and his own experiences with it, so there’s a personal narration. It’s a really insightful book. It does romanticise homelessness in a way, but at the same time it really unpicks some of the details of what it’s like to be homelessness. If there’s anyone who likes George Orwell, it’s certainly one I’d recommend.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m most passionate about the career that I’ve chosen. In particular, homelessness and social justice and equality. They are things that I have always been really passionate about, and always try to keep in the back of my mind, in whatever I do. I’m also passionate about adult safeguarding, which is something I’ve specialised in, and something that I continue to be engaged in. I’ve just finished authoring a chapter for a book which will be published next year so I’ve been lucky that what I do for a living is also what I’m most passionate about.
You can keep up with Bruno’s work by following him on Twitter @Bruno_Concrete.