Homelessness is an issue that we can’t ignore.
It’s all too easy to turn a blind eye, ignore the risks and pass the responsibility, but there are thousands of people across Stoke-on-Trent and beyond who are at risk of, or currently facing, homelessness.
That’s why we really value having people with lived experience on our team.
Having lived experience gives staff a unique insight into what our customers are going through and makes such a huge difference to the support we can provide to them.
Tenancy Sustainment Officer Riz is part of our brand-new Tenancy Sustainment Team. He supports customers with all aspects of their tenancy and helps them to develop the skills to one day live independently.
Riz is one of our incredible staff members using his own lived experience of homelessness to support others.
In May 2020, personal circumstances meant that Riz found himself with nowhere to stay, so he slept rough for two nights in Stoke-on-Trent.
He got in touch with the city’s Rough Sleeper team, who found him a place to stay, but he told us that those two nights were ‘dangerous and scary’.
Riz was given a bed at a local hotel and it was here that he met Concrete.
He went from being a Concrete customer, to supporting others as a member of the Concrete army. He shared his story with us this week and told us how he uses his lived experience to help others.
He said: “I found myself homeless after an unexpected situation. I only slept on the streets for two days – but they were dangerous and scary days.
“It was a difficult situation anyway, but this was the start of the pandemic too. Everything was really uncertain at that time.
“I was in the hotel and then at a hostel for around six months. That’s when I was introduced to Concrete.
“About four days after I arrived at the hotel, I got a call from Concrete. The team said they could support me and help me to find accommodation.
“It took a while due to the pandemic, but by October I received the amazing news that Concrete had found me somewhere to live. I moved out of the hostel and into my own place.”
Riz saw this as his second chance and was determined to work hard and turn things around, with Concrete’s help of course.
He said: “My Concrete Service Coordinator was amazing. He helped me to settle in and always checked in to make sure I was OK.
“Straightaway, with their encouragement, I signed up to an agency to get some work. I had previous pharmacy experience, so I managed to find a job at a local pharmacy warehouse.
“At that point I felt like I was in focus-mode. I worked hard, said yes to all of the overtime I could get and just stayed positive.
“It was a challenging environment, but I worked hard and gave it my all. I knew it was a great opportunity for me.”
Riz had turned everything around and knew it was time to give back. When he saw a job advert for the role of Tenancy Sustainment Officer, he wondered if he could use his lived experience and give back to current Concrete customers.
He took a chance and applied for the job, admitting that ‘he never considered he would get it,’ but was successful.
He said: “Starting my role at Concrete felt like I was embarking on a brand-new chapter. I love being able to help people. I like knowing that I’m working closely with people to make a real difference.”
“Having lived experience is always really valuable. I want customers to see that it’s possible to change your life. You just have to stay positive and keep going. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”