"I love the work because I really feel it means something more than ‘just a job’."
Working at Neami has been a huge change in my life. It’s a totally different space from my past working life. I worked in the hospitality industry for around 30 years. Peer Support Work is a whole different focus and a different pace. Some of the dynamics have been a struggle for me, coming from a high pressure, deadline-focused environment. The office space took me a long time to get used to.
I was homeless for around three years in the Sydney CBD and Woolloomooloo. I started with Neami in 2018. After being housed it was suggested by my CRSW that there may be an opportunity of employment as Way2Home was starting a Peer Support Worker program in Sydney. It took a while to get the program up and running and I have been working doing outreach and post-crisis support here since January 2018.
To be able to say 'I understand, I know where you’re coming from' and really mean it is one of the many rewards of doing this work
I find people who are sleeping rough just want someone to talk to, as being marginalised often means being ignored, invisible. It’s great to be able to sit and listen to people, relate to them and not judge them. I’m fortunate that I know a lot of our clients as peers. It makes engaging with people a lot less formal and seems to cut down on time spent building relationships.
The lived experience aspect of my work has an almost indefinable quality to it. To be able to say "I understand, I know where you’re coming from" and really mean it is one of the many rewards of doing this work.
It’s very positive to have a genuine rapport and relationship with the people I work with. My colleagues are an important part of my role as they are also my peers whom I support and learn from.
The financial aspect of full time employment has given me options that weren’t in my thoughts two years ago. I’m working, making a meaningful contribution and have much more choice in my life these days.
Outreach work keeps me grounded, most of the time, as working with people who are experiencing homelessness is a reminder of where I was at before starting at Neami.
Mark is currently working with Neami STEP as a Peer Support Worker.