Eric G on HHPA training

“The training turned out to be the most informative and useful training I have ever received.”

First published February 2017 by Eric G

I first heard about Groundswell through a friend. We both were attending other services at which I was sometimes a volunteer. Whilst I knew a little about the support that Groundswell provided, from discussions with my friend I still didn’t understand the full extent of of Groundswell’s work in providing support and assistance to those experiencing homelessness such as accompanying them to and from health appointments and raising awareness around health issues in general. At first I thought that the service was somehow recovery based as this is the area in which I had volunteered and peer mentored previously.

It just so happened that I saw my friend a few days before Groundswell were starting training for new Homless Health Peer Advocates so he gave me Groundswell’s number. I attended an initial interview, at short notice, and a couple of days later I started the training.

The training turned out to be the most informative and useful training I have ever received from any organisation hoping to train and engage volunteers, but that is not to say that it was overall great fun!

We were trained by staff some of which had experienced homelessness themselves and often we would receive training from outside organisations providing information of speficifc topics. For example we were trained in such areas as Safeguarding Risk Assessment and Boundaries, Mental Health Awareness, Hepatitis C, First Aid (for which we gained an accredited certificate), Equality and Diversity and were introduced to Clinical Supervision.

One of the elements of the course which was quite intensive, but which I enjoyed nonetheless was Motivational Interviewing. This training involved role plays based on real life scenarios which really brought home to me the barriers and difficulties often experienced by Groundswell’s clients on a day to day basis be they related not only to homelessness but also housing, mental health and or domestic abuse.

Another part of the training which for me personally was of great interest and benefit was Advocacy which was facilited by a specialist in Advocacy. Again, this part of the training was also intensive, but we learned firstly about the concept of advocacy and how we could bring this into our support with Groundswell’s clients to help ensure that they were being heard and their needs were met. However, another part of this training which impacted on me personally was exploring self advocacy and examining how I myself could be heard and have my needs met and the idea of self-care as it became clear to me that I did not look after myself in terms of self-care and management I may not be in a position to effectively support one of Groundswell’s Clients.

Overall, I would say that the Groundswell training provided me with greater self-confidence and motivation as well as the practical elements of the course. Not everyone who started the training stayed the distance to the end but there developed a real team spirit between those of us that did which was something that I had not experienced for a long time and which still remains.

After completing the training we shadowed HHPA’s who were currently working with Clients. This was invaluable seeing the work done in action. What struck me whilst shadowing was that the HHPA’s showed a real dedication and pride in the work that they were doing and how the HHPA’s are part of a greater Groundswell team.

Working now as a HHPA I continue to experience the same Groundswell team spirit and the work that I am doing continues to inform me, gives me a sense of purpose and makes me not only proud of Groundswell and all its staff but also of myself.

A group of volunteers on their first day of HHPA training