First year students in Occupational Therapy at the University of East Anglia (UEA) took part in a virtual placement at St Martins where they met staff, clients and volunteers and received a unique insight into homelessness support.
Usually a small group of students would come in person to our hostels and shadow our team members and learn from them first-hand. They would interact with the people we support and find out how as an occupational therapist they have a role to play in helping them transition into housing and access education, training and community activities.
Head of Life Skills and Social Development Nicky King said, “Normally we would throw them in at the deep end and they would get involved in support sessions, perhaps a home visit, or maybe assist someone as they move into new accommodation. With the current Covid- 19 restrictions, it was impossible to offer this sort of placement. However, we did want to offer something. Students always get a lot out of their placements with us and we think the homelessness sector is an important area for health professionals to experience.”
One of the students, Hayley, said, “The placement was really great and to be virtual was a challenge but you made it really interactive and I’ve definitely learnt a lot on this placement.”
“Having the chance to speak to someone who has been homeless really brought their experience to life and has now completely changed my opinion of what homelessness is….I’m genuinely going to miss having my placement with you and I am now considering perhaps my future career as an Occupational Therapist is to support individuals who have suffered from homelessness +/- substance abuse/mental health issues. What an amazing difference you have made to so many lives, it must be so rewarding.”
Sessions covered during the placement included:
- Why we must always use a person centred approach/PIE
- Communication, negative thoughts and self esteem,
- Why do our clients receive negative stereotyping
- Case studies,
- 1-2-1 with volunteers who have experienced homelessness