Birthday memories: Sue Hazelden

thumbnail Sue

One25 posted this on 15/05/2020

“Always the women who come first”


I’m Sue Hazelden and I have worked for One25 for not quite 20 years, it may only be 18, it’s actually quite hard to remember. When I joined, I was the administrator and it was really only just me because we were a very small team in those days. I would answer the door bell and the phone and send out thank you letters and count money and bank money. I did everything that wasn’t casework, really, occasionally I went down to drop in and helped out at drop in as well.

I first heard about One25 when we first moved to Bristol in 1999. Pam Scott Cook was in our church and she would often talk about going out on the van and how wonderful the work that the organisation was doing . We are going to them where they are, we’re not saying you’ve got to do this and then we can help you, we’re not saying you’ve got to commit to that and then we can help you.

We’re saying, here you are on the street, here’s a sandwich, here’s a hot drink, here’s a bar of chocolate and a piece of fruit and some condoms. And having got those things, is there anything else that you want to do that we can help you with? And so we’d see women on the van and then we’d invite them to come into the drop in. That’s where we can do the next step work. That’s where they can say, “I would really like to contact my children. Sort out my rent arrears, get away from my boyfriend , address my drug use and try and improve my health.”

We can invite them to come to the drop in centre and there we can say, “OK, here are the steps that we can take, to help you take steps that you want to take.” So it’s very much not that we’re pulling them into our agenda, but that we’re saying, “what’s your agenda and how can we help with it?”

Well, it’s changed enormously. As I said, we were a small team and our computer network, for starters, was interesting. We had one email address and if you open the email on one computer, then that was the computer that the email had to be replied to from.

Have we changed? Well, a lot more staff, a lot more volunteers, a complex work team much, much bigger than it was. And of course we’ve got Pause and Peony.

We’re much, much bigger. But the core values haven’t changed. And it’s still always the women who come first. But the staff are also very central and the volunteers. So we reach out and support the women through a lot of difficulties. We do also reach out to support staff when there’s any kind of crisis or difficulty and also the volunteers. We always make it very clear to volunteers that they shouldn’t feel they’re letting us down if they phone up and say, “I’m not well, I can’t do this, or emotionally I can’t do this because this has happened.” That’s not a failure on their part, volunteering is something that we are sure that they should only do if they’re in the right place to do it. It’s a message that we give out, I think, very consistently – that we care about you just as we care about the women.

I remember one Christmas, I was working the last working day before Christmas and one of the women had got a place in one of the hostels and I said, yeah, I can give her a lift there.

And when we came to go, she was making all sorts of excuses and she didn’t want to go. She wanted well, she wanted to get facts first and she wanted to do this first, she wanted to do the other first. I said, “I can either take you or I don’t, but, you know, we have to go now because I do have to get home.” And she said, “I can’t do it, I can’t go.” It broke my heart because she was the same age as one of my boys. I didn’t know where she’d be for Christmas, the only thing I could do was say, “OK, that’s fine, just remember that Caring in Bristol is open. You can always go there, just make yourself as safe as you can” and then I had to come back into work and phone the hostel and say she’s not coming . I think there was one caseworker left. And then I went home and howled of course.

Often we don’t know. You know, we do lose touch with the woman and we just don’t know why that is or what’s happened and then sometimes a long time later, we hear something fantastic, which is great.

Wouldn’t it be good if women didn’t feel that the only option left to them was to work on the streets? If the benefits system was humane and, you know, worked, worked for people rather than in opposition to them.

A very big Happy 25th Birthday to all the women that we’ve ever worked with and to all the staff I’ve ever worked with and to all the volunteers.

So many, many happy returns.

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