People know me as me. I don’t go around shouting “Oh yeah gay rights” and stuff. I can’t be bothered. I’m going to live my life, and if you don’t like me for what I am, then it’s just tough, you know?

Photography by Leonora Saunders

Lorna

I don’t see myself as better than them. They’re a person, just the same as me. They’re in a bit of trouble with their tenancy for whatever reason, but at the end of the day, I’m no better than them and they’re not better than me.

My job is to work as intense support with tenants who have hoarding tendencies. A lot of the tenants we work with are older or disabled, whose hoarding is causing an issue with their tenancy. We not only deal with the heavy side of lifting and getting rid of everything, we’ve got to support them emotionally as well. Most people we work with have usually been living in the property for many years. Usually they have had a family in the property, and the family have grown up and left, and obviously as they’re older they can’t cope with the size of the property and the amount of stuff in it.

Some might have mental health issues, so they struggle to get to grips with some stuff. Quite a lot of them have kept stuff that belongs to family members that have passed away and they struggle to let go of anything.

It can be very emotional. One person we worked with had lost her mum very recently, and she had to move very quickly. It was very emotional for her – and for myself and my colleague as well. She did suffer from depression quite a bit and the slightest thing that she came across – anything to do with her mum – understandably, it set her off. So we had to be very careful, very supportive. Another guy we worked with, he had had his own business, him and his brother. They lost the business, I think his brother passed away some years ago now, so he just lost interest in everything after that.

We always go in as a pair, myself and my colleague, because it’s personal stuff that we’re dealing with. Also some people can get a bit aggressive or abusive if they’re struggling to cope. We understand why though – at the end of the day, I wouldn’t like someone coming in and going through my personal stuff and saying “Do you really need this?”

I’ve got OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). When I started doing this job, some of my friends in my office said “How are you going to cope going into some of the properties?” And I did wonder about that… Some of the properties we go into are alright; we’re just shovelling stuff about. But some of them are really, really bad. You just get on with it, you speak to the tenants – have a laugh and a joke with them.

I’ve never had any abuse from tenants with regards to my sexuality. It’s quite unbelievable really. Although I have people come into the office and ask for me, and one of them once said “The bisexual one!” I thought “What’s she on about?!”
People know me as me. I don’t sort of go around sort of shouting “Oh yeah gay rights” and stuff. I can’t be bothered. I’m going to go out, live my life and if you don’t like me for what I am, then it’s just tough, you know?

You deal with a lot of people from different walks of life. People can be a bit hidden, or sheltered from everyday life in the kind of jobs they do. But the job we do, the people we come across and some of the stuff we’ve seen in the houses – you think “Jesus, you wouldn’t think this went on in this area.” But everybody’s different, aren’t they?

Initially I was a housing support worker. I had a support caseload but I was managing the furnished tenancy scheme as well. This opportunity came up and I thought ‘Do you know what? I’m going to try something else.’ We were told it was a six-month pilot scheme. At the end of the six months we all had a meeting with the manager, and asked her if it was stopping. She looked at us and said “Why would it stop?” There’s just so much call for this work out there.

My place is absolutely – and I’m not just saying this – it is absolutely spotless. I love technology, so if I’m buying something I’ll think to myself, ‘Right, well I don’t really need that. Will I actually use it?’ I have regular sort-throughs now and take everything to the charity shop.


I’m originally from Wallasey near Liverpool. I moved to Stockport around fifteen years ago. I worked in a tea factory for a long time. We’d go in on nights, put the radio on and turn it right up so that when we were stuck in the warehouse, unloading the wagon, we’d have the music blasting! And I loved that part of doing the warehouse and doing nights.

I think the last job I did was driving – a bus driver. And then I ended up getting into a bit of support work – there was a jobs fair for getting into support work, so I went along. They told me I needed to get some volunteering under my belt. So I went home, looked in the paper and the only volunteer role was training to become a drug and alcohol support worker. I remember going to the building to drop off my application form, and standing outside a building that had empty beer cans and vomit on the floor, drug and alcohol service users in and out the building, and I thought ‘Can I do this?’

I loved it, absolutely loved it. I had a really good working relationship with a lot of the service users and when I stopped doing it, a lot of them were sad to see me go. I remember covering the women’s group one day, just before I left that job to go and do paid work. Some of the women were still offending, some of them were street homeless. And I remember that day quite a few of them were in and out of the room – turned out they’d been sneaking off to make me a leaving card. Do you know what? Considering these women were hard to reach, for them to go out and do that – I just thought it was really, really nice of them, dead thoughtful.

When I was doing the women’s group, the regular women that were coming all the time would save money each week, and then we went out bowling and went for a Chinese and they loved it. I took my badge off and put it in my pocket, and I remember one of them saying “I was glad that you did that because it was like you were one of us, and you weren’t special, just taking us out for the day.” A lot of them used to say to me, “You’re not like other workers, you’re straight-forward; you say it as it is. You don’t beat around the bush, you tell us what’s what and if you think we’re out of order, you’ll just tell us.”


I think a lot of people that do the kind of work we do try to be careful about how they say things, because I suppose in some way they’re trying to be professional. I’ve tried that, and people look at you as if to say “What are you going on about?” A good manager is somebody who lets you get on with the job, they trust you to make your own decisions, which ours does – she lets us get on with it. She knows that if we’ve got any issues or any queries we’ll go to her and she’ll sort them out. But most of the time she knows that we know what we’re doing. We are really good team. Our office is really good, we get on. We’ve been really lucky actually.

I like my job because I can come in and do my job to the best of my ability – I enjoy doing my job, I get on with everybody in the office – but then when I’ve finished at 5 o’clock or whenever, I can go home. And I’ve got my family life at home and that’s what I like doing.

You see some of the people at the beginning of this work, and then you see them at the end when we’ve finished with them, and they’re so different. The majority of them are really, really grateful for everything. You do get a lot who absolutely work their socks off with you, and they’re so grateful and can’t thank you enough. And that’s what I like seeing at the end of it, you know? You go in and see a property at the beginning and at the end it’s just so, so different – and they’re different; so much happier.

And that’s why I do it.