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How do you convince someone that you’re only trying to help?

That’s the question that neighbourhood coach, Hayley Weir, was posed with when she wanted to get to know Edith.* Here, she takes up the story.

I’m fairly new to this role and one of my first calls was to Edith. She has been a Bromford customer for years and from her notes, I knew that she had been living with poor mental health for some time. I was concerned to see that there had been no gas connected at her home for a long while too (if we can’t get access to carry out safety checks, by law, we have to cap the gas).

The first time I called round I was pleasantly surprised that she opened the door to me, but my joy was short-lived as she quickly closed it again when she realised I work for Bromford - telling me that she was fine and wanted to be left alone.

It’s not my job to make people do what they don’t want to.

It’s not my job to make people do what they don’t want to. We all have a very different window on the world and one person’s idea of ‘normal’ is very different to another’s. What I do see as part of my role though is helping people to see that there may be another way of living – which then allows them to make more informed choices. So I decided not to give up on my quest of getting to know Edith.

I called round a couple more times over the coming weeks but she didn’t answer the door – I was beginning to think our first meeting was just beginner’s luck.

After a bit of digging, I found out that Edith had a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) so I got in touch with her in the hope that I could get to meet her again. Luckily, this worked and I managed to have a quick chat with Edith and she agreed to meet me the following week. Things were looking up – or so I thought.

I called the next week only to be left standing on the doorstep – again.

A couple of weeks passed and I was walking around the neighbourhood when I saw Edith on the opposite side of the road. I quickly crossed over to say hello and ask how she was. We arranged to meet up but she put me off until after Christmas. I think she was hoping that I’d give up – she obviously doesn’t know me very well!

After Christmas I turned up with the CPN again and this time I managed to ask her how she felt about her home and if she needed any help with anything. She said that she didn't really know what she wanted. Her home was very cluttered and unclean but she said that she didn’t know what to do with it. She couldn't quite understand why I wanted to help her.

I reassured her that it was part of my job to help, that I wanted her to be happy. She seemed confused by this – maybe this approach to housing management will take some getting used to for some people.

I left feeling like I’d made a little breakthrough with Edith but there was still a lot of work to do before I gained her trust enough for us to have an honest relationship with each other.

It's who you know

That week I introduced myself to another lady in the same neighbourhood. She had some health issues and we had a good chat about how she was feeling.

“Wait till I tell my friend how lovely you are,” she said.

Smiling, I said, “Who is your friend?”

“You know, Edith – you’re visiting her again this week aren’t you? She really needs some help as the state of her home is making her depressed.”

I felt my stomach flip with excitement when I realised she knew Edith - this could change everything.

The next time I went round Edith answered the door straight away and invited me in. She was like a different person. We had a look round her home and I reassured her that I could help her to get it back to how she likes it.

Increased confidence

We went for a little walk together and shared a pot of tea while we chatted. It was lovely getting to know a little more about her. She couldn’t believe that I’d taken her out for a cuppa – I think she thought that she would be in trouble. She told me about her past and her family; I found out that she used to be a cleaner but was struggling to know where to start with her home. We agreed that I would visit again next week with a view to her starting to clear some of the stuff the following week.

When we got back to her house she asked if I wanted to take a look around. Wow, what a breakthrough. From barely opening the door to now having the confidence to show me every room.

Before I left she gave me a cuddle and said: “Thank you, you're a lovely lady.”

I called again a few days later. She opened the door, invited me in and started showing me all the things she wanted to get rid of and the stuff she wanted to keep. It was fantastic to know that she had been thinking about what we’d talked about. I can't quite believe how far we have come in only a few weeks.

*Name changed

Emma O’Sullivan, locality manager for Staffordshire said: “This story just goes to show the importance of persistence – but more importantly it shows the power of word of mouth.

“Edith had disengaged for years and had become quite skilled at keeping us away from her home but the relationship that Hayley quickly developed with Edith’s friend really helped to break down some of those barriers.

That external endorsement gave Edith the confidence to begin to trust Hayley – and once that first step had been taken there were positive outcomes for all involved.”

Hi there, I'm one of the writers and content creators at Bromford...It's all about storytelling and social media for me.  

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