My first experience of social care and supported housing was when I was working as a management training consultant in Cardiff. I remember visiting two hostels to support the managers and being fascinated by the work that they did. I wanted to be part of it; to contribute to something bigger, to make a difference and to do more than simply line the pockets of a CEO who was only interested in making more money.
I met some amazing people in that capacity who to this day remain some of the most influential people on my life and my career. My first role within supported housing was within skills development, a natural progression from my training role. Within six months I was running a social care centre that provided support services for people sleeping rough and floating support services, tackling homelessness prevention. With a great team to work alongside, I had found my true passion, my calling some would say. After a number of years, I gained a National role within The Salvation Army, and amongst a wide remit, was responsible for UK wide culture change and transformation to make all of their Homelessness Services person-centred and psychologically informed. Again, with the support of peers in a great leadership team this opportunity provided me with great experiences and learning that have shaped me and my approaches to work.
After 15 years with The Salvation Army, with the last 8 years working out of a London office, I knew I wanted or rather needed a change. I needed to feel reconnected to Wales, a sense of ‘Hiraeth’ (longing/ homesickness) for somewhere I already technically lived was a strange experience, but it is the best way to describe it. I didn’t feel that I was contributing to the communities and the country that I loved so much. But, despite successfully gaining a position with Trivallis as a Board Member, I realised that it was far more than just being involved in the local, and that it was as much about supporting people and social housing as it was the location. Making a difference to people within my community is so important to me. I’ve tried to describe it to a few non- housing sector friends in the past, and all I’ve got is that it gets under your skin; it’s all consuming (in a good way). You can be part of a community that tackles socio- economic inequality, that challenges stigma, that strives for equality, that provides services that meet the most basic of needs and more to support people to flourish. There are SO many reasons why I love housing; why it grabs you and doesn’t let go.
Starting a new role during the pandemic has certainly been an experience, I still sit in the same little home office as I did before joining Cadwyn and yet I have a totally different team to work with. I’m still yet to meet the majority of people in person and have only met my boss in the flesh once during the interview process. I’ve met some tenants online, but again, it’s nothing compared to holding an event or spending some time together physically. So, when we are all safe and well, it will be great to get out and meet people. I’ve said throughout the pandemic, that I won’t ever complain- I’m fortunate to be still at work, in a role I love, and am well enough to do so. Yes, I’m sick of the four walls, and yes, I miss many people and parts of ‘normal’ life, but I will be forever grateful for what I have.
Since joining Cadwyn late last year, I’ve had the privilege of meeting some truly inspirational people. Staff members who despite the pandemic are delivering day after day to support people across Cardiff with incredible outcomes, tenants who are coming together in raising money for local charities, individuals who are overcoming their own challenges and are starting each day with a new determination to thrive. People are what makes the housing sector what it is. Employees, volunteers, tenants, residents and many other key stakeholders who firmly believe that every person has the right to a home and who simply won’t stand by and quietly witness inequality.
Catrin Stark, Director of Housing, Cadwyn