Internships at WLM
What’s it like being an intern at WLM?
An interview with Keziah Hughes, former Intern at WLM Seymour Place
What is the WLM Seymour Place?
Every day around 100 street homeless people come to Seymour Place. Our clients can get something to eat, use the shower facilities and sign up from a range of services including talking to a support worker and the nurse.
The centre’s aim is to treat street homeless clients as whole people by addressing their physical, practical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. We attempt to address these needs through a variety of services and groups including Art classes, English Language classes, a spirituality group for all faiths and none, a Music group and access to services such as counselling, an optometrist and a podiatrist. The support workers at the centre work hard to help our clients to seek employment and housing options with the aim of moving and keeping them off the streets.
What kind of people come to the centre?
We get a wide variety of people from many different backgrounds coming into the centre each day. Our client base is mostly made up of men but a small number of women also access the service on a daily basis.
It is natural that we see volatile and/or demanding characters in the day centre but the thing that always strikes new volunteers the most is that the majority of our clients are very polite and gracious towards the staff and each other. With a high number of the service users coming from other countries we also encounter a wider range of English Language abilities whilst interacting with them.
What do the interns do day to day?
The interns start half an hour before the centre opens for the morning drop in to ensure that the reception and canteen areas are fully set up and attend pre-brief with the rest of the frontline staff. Once the centre is open the interns rotate between covering reception; where they check for client post and sign clients up for services/appointments, serving food in the canteen, and floating; during which they assist the medical team, talk to clients and undertake any other tasks which need doing. Once the drop in has finished the interns are tasked with ensuring the laundry (both clients and towels from the morning) is done, and have the opportunity to attend meetings and assist with afternoon groups such as Art classes, English language classes and Employment and Support sessions.
Once interns have been at the centre for a while they then have the opportunity to build on this in a more personalised way by getting more involved in aspects of the centre’s work that will prove more beneficial to their specific career ambitions/goals.
Is the work scary?
The environment can feel a bit intimidating at first but I think that is more from not knowing what to expect. It is obviously important to be aware of and prepared for the possibility of volatile behaviour but there is no reason to be scared. We have a great team here and everyone is always looking out for each other.
Do you need lots of experience?
It is important to have an understanding of the type of environment that you are getting yourself involved in as an intern working with street homeless clients, but it is more important that you have the right approach to and attitude for the work than actual experience in the field. This is a learning role so it is good to have at least a basic understanding to start you off but to still have plenty of space to learn and grow.
What is the best thing about being an intern?
The best thing about being an intern is the opportunity it gives you to learn and grow in a supportive environment. The role is really varied and so long as you’re proactive the opportunities that are made available to you as an intern here allow you to get involved in lots of different areas. It’s also really exciting when you get to hear about and see clients’ success stories when they find work and/or accommodation and know that all the hard work that the team has put in with them has paid off.
What is it like living in central London?
The biggest benefit to living in central London is the ease of access and transport to so many different places. A lot of places are within walking distance, including Hyde Park, Regents Park and Oxford Street, and places further afield are easily accessible either via the tube or buses, so it never takes too long to get anywhere. There’s a lot to see and do around London and plenty of it is free or reasonable cheap so it’s quite easy to keep busy. We are also really use to coach stops and train stations to get to other parts of England, so its relatively easy to get out of the city if you want to.
Why would you recommend it?
This internship has given me a fantastic opportunity to learn about an area of work that I am keen to get into. I have grown and learnt so much in the short time that I have been here, not only from the point of view of understanding systems and procedures, but also with regards to understanding homelessness and the people it affects. The team here is also really great and supportive and we’re able to not only do really great work with clients but have fun while we do it.
Keziah Hughes, WLM Seymour Place Residential Intern 2016/2017