Last November, Kim Kaur of Forward Leeds, was appointed as a Complex Case Worker, working with those identified as the most hard to reach and difficult to engage in services on the city’s streets.
It’s a new role, specially commissioned by Leeds Council, to work alongside the Leeds Street Outreach Service (SOS) team.
Kim is passionate about doing all she can to offer choices for people who no longer think they have any options at all.
Her clients are some of the most vulnerable in our city. Rough sleeping, begging and wary of people offering to help.
Her role is to move them away from life on the street and to encourage and support them in accessing treatment with Forward Leeds, housing support and benefits.
Kim said: “These are people with an inherent mistrust of services.
“Often, they feel they have been let down before or have been passed over for help by services who were not able to work with them. It’s about breaking down some of these barriers.
“For a long time, they feel they have not had any choices about the way they live their lives. They have been used to no options and no goals.
She explained: “My work with clients is not just getting people into treatment for alcohol and/or drugs, but on every aspect of their life. On their physical and mental health, their benefits, their housing – whatever is the barrier for them moving forward.
“The job is also about helping these clients to work with other local services and agencies towards a healthier and more fulfilling life”
Passionate about her work
Kim said: “I am passionate about working with individuals who are often the most chaotic and entrenched in risky behaviours.
“No two days are ever the same. I’m constantly having to assess the levels of risk. Every day is about trying to reduce the possibility of harm that the people may come to through their risk taking behaviour”
Kim and her colleagues in the Leeds Street Outreach Service alternate early morning and late night sessions throughout the week to check on the safety of those on the streets. Sometimes starting as early as 5.30am and sometimes finishing as late as 2am.
Kim said: “Once we have built a level of trust and I have helped clients realise life can be different, then the choices can be overwhelming for them and that brings different problems.
“That’s why often we only work with clients at their own pace. Allowing them to prioritise what is important for them. I can’t decide what’s right for the client or tell them what to do. All I do is try to make sure the decisions they are taking about their life are considered decisions, taken after weighing up the choices. For some clients even making a considered decision about what is in their own best interests can be difficult.
“Today I’ve spent two and a half hours with one client supporting him at the Probation Service. When a client is ready to engage and move forward, that client can easily take up to 15-20 hours of my time a week.”
Working with other services
Kim works closely with a range of other services in Leeds to support her clients.
This includes colleagues in the Leeds Street Outreach Service but also the St. Anne’s Resource Centre, a daytime drop in centre for homeless people in Leeds that offers information and practical support, York Street Health Practice, a GPs surgery that specialises in working with those of no fixed abode and in temporary accommodation and the Housing Options team at Leeds City Council who look to find suitable homes for the vulnerably housed.