How does a typical shift start for you?
“When I arrive in the venue I’ll get a hand-over from the St Mungo’s staff and get briefed on what happened during the day; I mainly do night shifts. This is also an opportunity to do a health and safety check of the building. This can include making sure fire extinguishers are in the right place, nothing is blocking any fire exits, there are no leaks, ensure lights are working etc. I’ll also do a welfare check if it’s necessary for anyone staying in the shelter.” These are some of the first steps Florian takes to make sure the security and facilities of the building are intact, make sure he has all the information he needs to start his work, and establish any specific requirements anyone staying in the shelter might need for the night. As well as establishing what is going on inside the building, a key part of Florian’s work is establishing what goes on just outside its walls. “I’ll take this opportunity to look at the CCTV to make sure access has only been made for people within the building.”
How do you approach working with vulnerable people?
“I have to be aware of what kind of problems they have, whether that’s alcohol or drug addiction or mental health related; they all require different approaches. We have to be aware of where residents are and continuously assess their behaviour.” Health and safety checks, hand-overs, surveillance updates and assessments are all preliminary steps Florian takes to achieving one of the most important parts of his work: prevention. That means preventing issues arising within the building and preparing for any external influences that can compromise people’s safety. “People with drug problems are particularly vulnerable to sellers who target the shelter. We have to be vigilant of anyone hanging around outside the building and trying to make contact inside so we can send them away. You need to remain empathetic with residents whilst setting rules and boundaries, for example not allowing outside contraband like alcohol inside, or quickly deescalating a conflict that could result in a fight between residents. ”
How have you had to adapt in wake of Covid-19?
“We were very busy over lockdown and had to take extra health and safety steps in the building. This has meant temporarily closing communal areas, wearing PPE, glass walls have been installed around desks and we work to socially distance from residents.” On top of Florian’s nightly tasks that include monitoring and patrols, himself and the team are cleaning as they go throughout the night to keep the accommodation clean and secure.
What are some of the main skills your job requires?
“Assessing people is very important. I have to remain due-diligent and aware of everything that’s going on in order to take care of everyone. I have to maintain a high level of care and communication with the residents, be patient with people, and be prepared to work the long hours, often through the night. There’s a lot of responsibility to take on and sometimes you’ll have to make quick decisions and actions. Like I said, it’s important to make prevention a priority, wherever you’re working as a security guard.”
What are some of your most memorable work moments?
“You get to know the residents if you’re spending more time in the venue. They might want to share something with you or tell you some of the work they’ve done.” Florian is a keen trainer and enjoys running in the park and training at the gym. Beyond that, he’s also a keen fisher and made a particular bond with one of the residents. “There was a resident who was around my age and I’d share stories with him about fishing with my grandpa. It was really nice to make that connection and hear how he was getting on.”
The balance between care, responsibilities, connections, boundaries and professionalism are particularly challenging for anyone working in homeless care. Florian is dedicated to getting the balance of everything right whilst maintaining a high level of security for everyone at his St Mungo’s accommodation.