Louise Brown has been a Night Concierge with 360 Services since October of 2020, and divides her work between 2 St Mungo’s homeless shelters; an accommodation for women and a mixed accommodation. Louise is relatively new to 360 Services, but joined us with with work experience as a security guard. There’s a lot to learn from Louise, a day in her life with 360 Services, and the array of skills she applies to different settings.

How did you come to working with 360-Services?

“I obtained my SIA badge 5 years ago, and since then I worked as a steward at a local football ground and offered door support to local community centres. I also worked as a security guard at a Polish festival and for a number of years, I worked in a casino. This is how I got to know about 360 Services. A gentleman I worked with believed my skills would be suitable for them since they were looking for female staff.”

How is working with 360-Services different to work you’ve done before?

“You have to understand the clients you’re working with. That’s the link I suppose, it’s all about working with people. But the difference is, at a St Mungo’s shelter you’re working with vulnerable people.” A main pivot for Louise has been moving from a commercial setting to a more vulnerable and isolated environment. “In a casino, people come because they want to engage in the services they provide. I had a lot of responsibility and grew to know the clientele well. I would approach argumentative customers with a sense of humour, but remain clear, concise and firm with them.”

Louise has years of communicative tools under her belt she applies to her St Mungo’s work. However, working in a St Mungo’s shelter demands external awareness of things such as substance use, abuse, mental health disabilities and how they pose risks to residents’ safety. It’s for these reasons she takes a wholly different stance on her day-to-day work. “I ask residents, how can I help you to help yourself? Your goal is to move on from here and guarantee a future tenancy. You have to have empathy in abundance and be able to communicate with them.”

How do you approach a typical shift?

“I mainly work in the women’s accommodation and do one shift a week at the mixed hostel. My primary aim is to ensure the safety of those women. That means securing the safety of the building, i.e making sure the fire alarms are secure, checking the front door is closed and nobody is loitering, and then it’s about engaging with them to make sure they’re abiding by their tenancy. For example, I make sure in communal areas there should be no drinking, no smoking or unsociable behaviour.”

As a Night Concierge, Louise has to remain vigilant throughout her shift of her entire surroundings, from the building’s infrastructure to what’s going on externally and internally. This also means keeping a log throughout her shift of events and behaviour. As a night-time concierge, she’ll pick up a handover from the day staff and establish anything that’s happened prior to starting her shift.

“I have a lot of experience with residents who have problems with suicide, mental health and addiction…it’s a challenging environment. In the women’s hostel they’ll come and open up to me. We have to remain professional without being judgemental. I tell residents I can listen and record discussions but encourage them to action these changes with their key workers. Because of my past work experience I can implement skills, theories and resources to help them through.”

What are some of the challenges you face in the hostels?

“In the women’s hostel I work by myself, in the mixed hostel I work alongside a St Mungo’s worker. That in itself is very challenging… when you’re in a team you can bounce ideas off each other. When you’re on your own, you’re on your own. You have 24 hour telephone support from the 360 Services Control Room and a St Mungos on-call duty but you have to be resilient and think on your feet.”

Like all 360 Services staff, Louise is balancing a number of tasks throughout her shift. She has to create a safe, communicative environment that puts prevention and harm reduction first. Louise also has to be able to respond to moments of crisis.

In times of emergency – for example, a resident’s health is in jeopardy – Louise works quickly, decisively and calmly. “It can be very challenging. When an incident happens I’ll file an incident report that will go to management, and I’ll give reassurance to any residents involved. I’ll dial 999 if I have to and do what I can to encourage residents’ safety if they’re conscious and communicative. For example, if I can get a resident into the communal area, it’s much safer for all of us and we can go from there.”

How have you adapted for Covid-19?

“It’s difficult to work in PPE and be open with people. We have to reinforce to residents to follow the measures. For example, if a resident is leaving the house I’ll get them a mask from the office. If they’re in the communal area I try to reinforce social distancing. I’ll monitor CCTV and make notes that I pass to day staff.”

Working with vulnerable people during Covid-19 has proved challenging across many sectors, so Louise has to utilise those communicative tools such as encouragement and de-escalation. These tools are effective because of the relationships she’s created with residents.

“You have to think about the appropriate timing. You want them to trust you so you have to engage with them. You have to be able to look at that individual and speak to them without belittling them, but you still need to get the outcome you want. I had a resident who was being aggressive to other residents in the communal area. I laid out the rules and suggestions and reinforced I would contact the police for everyone’s safety if I needed to. Eventually, they did move, and when they did, they opened up to me and we could take it from there.” 

What do you find rewarding about your work with 360-Services?

“I try to be the eyes and ears for St Mungo’s staff and record what I see. No interpretations, just observations, which is quite hard. My faith is very important for me though. If I can treat you with the love I’d expect to be treated with if I fell on my sword, that’s how I approach people.”

In just a short amount of time, Louise has stepped up to a new, challenging role and has recently been pronoted to a Lead Concierge – Supervisory role. She’s approached her work with a high standard of professionalism and empathy. We’re proud to have her on-board and look forward to her bright future working with us.

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