Interview with Matt Wiseman - Housing Support Worker

Johannes Lenhard

“I am kind of adjusted now – getting used to working at home, not getting the train to work […] and things feel like they are more under control now.” When I call Matt Wiseman, one of the housing support workers at Jimmy’s, he seems calm and optimistic.

Normally, pre-Covid-19, Matt would spend most of his day in face-to-face meetings with the 15 or so residents that he works with at any one point. Obviously, these encounters have shifted to the phone since the lockdown started March 23. Matt tells me how he notices in these almost daily conversations, how much the residents get out of the face to face appointments.

One of the big problems has been drug testing, something that really helps many of Jimmy’s guests to keep on top of their substance use issues. For the first weeks after lockdown, these tests weren’t possible; some guests relapsed at least partly as a result of that, partly driven by other factors, such as massively increased boredom. Fortunately, these tests are back on track as Matt was able to train other members of frontline staff how to conduct them.

Matt is responsible for 12 residents at Jimmy’s and 9 in emergency hotel accommodation at the moment and he makes a big effort to call them every day: “I spend every morning trying to call all my residents every day […] I am liaising with street outreach, Winter Comfort. Talking to them about support. […] I check that everyone has what they need, the housing is fine, the prescriptions are okay, the food deliveries, their benefits.”

The biggest issue in Matt’s eyes has been that people, particularly in Jimmy’s move-on houses, have not been staying in all the time. He sympathizes, knows how hard it is and does everything to make it easier: “We got Kindles for everyone who wanted one and Steam [gaming] memberships, too.” It is really about being there, helping everyone where possible and keeping people well through this difficult time.

The biggest success have been his HARP applications, lobbying for priority banding for HomeLink for some of his residents. Matt was able to get two people upgraded to Band A already; while life is unsure for many post-Covid, at least these two will very likely see a big improvement in their situation and be able to move onto their own housing quickly. Matt is working hard to support as many people as he can in this and all the other ways on a day to day basis.