Brian Beaton, a support officer working in our Employment Academy, shared some of his thoughts about winning the London Homelessness Awards at the end of last year.
“It all began with the judging process. One of the judges, Simon Dow, spent a whole day at the House being shown around by our graduate, Nurten, who did most of the talking. It wasn’t all a smooth process – on the day he was expected, several of the participants who were going to chat to him could not make it, and I thought that was it, we wouldn’t win. But Simon saw beyond that and beyond the glamour of the House to the genuine good work being done, taking the time to talk to participants and to our team delivering the programme. It was this process, having him here to talk to and show our work, that made winning The London Homelessness Awards feel more real.
Fast forward several months and we were on the way to the ceremony. Sitting in the car with Rory, a graduate and employee in the club, I was struck by how sharp he looked in his suit and how his calm and confident nature reflected how he has progressed. And with Rita, a team leader in the club, who has been so supportive of the programme and instrumental in making it happen. Rita created a workshop to introduce new participants to hospitality and is their first port of call for help whilst on work experience. Being there all together was really special, showing the strength of our partnership with Benugo and the impact we can have by working so closely together.
Ten of the team came along; a mix of Employment Support Officers, participants, graduates, and the club staff who manage the skills training for the programme. It was a strange experience, leaving work at lunchtime and heading to the ceremony, but when we walked into London’s Living Room at City Hall I immediately felt at ease. We were surrounded by people and organisations that work with us and the ceremony wasn’t just about winning but about celebrating the people who do amazing work in the homelessness sector.
It was a beautiful space, with windows looking out over the Thames. I was proud to realise the ease with which our team, participants and employees together – there is no difference, no division- settled in the space and moved with confidence. Our Employment Academy sits at the heart of a Grade I listed Georgian townhouse and familiarity with this grand setting empowered us all to feel at ease. We’re used to the idea that luxury and charity can (maybe even should) co-exist, they don’t need to be worlds apart.
Being singled out to win felt strange because it’s not all about us. What we do, we do with the help of so many partners. Every participant that we work with we support in partnership with their key worker. When they get employment, another person is added to that chain of support, making sure that each person is given the best possible chance of getting themselves out of homelessness. We don’t do it alone.
But the award recognises our collaborative way of working and our belief that by working alongside lots of other incredible people and organisations, we can help people to get their lives back on track. And this validation means that we can collaborate with more organisations to reach and support a bigger group of people back into lasting work.
So yeah, it’s a nice feeling to have won, but it’s not as if we just won the last game…people still need to be helped.”