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Changing Perceptions

Elaine at a recent volunteer event

Harbour Housing has suffered with a bad reputation in the past, particularly in regard to our main property Cosgarne Hall, and no one is more aware of this than current volunteer Elaine.

Elaine is now one of our most regular volunteers, providing invaluable CV skills and interview coaching to residents, but she did not originally have such a favourable view of the place that she now dedicates her time to.

As a resident of St Austell, Elaine’s first impression of Cosgarne was influenced by local perception, and she describes how anti-social behaviour in the town led to a lot of anger directed towards residents and staff.

“Everyone blamed Cosgarne when something happened in town, and there were lots of letters written to the council and posts on Facebook about it.”

One of these posts was written by a friend of Elaine’s, and so when she was invited up to see Cosgarne for herself as a result, she brought Elaine along with her. 

After having a tour of the facilities and meeting staff and residents, Elaine said that her perception totally changed, and she immediately decided that she wanted to help.

She had not realised beforehand that residents were provided with so much more than just a bed and a roof, and that there was such a focus on proactively helping people to move on.

“I realised just how much help they were all given. What you see from outside isn’t what you get when you come inside.”

Elaine has been volunteering for nearly two years now, and made such a difference to so many residents.

Her one-to-one sessions help not only prepare residents for interviews with employers and landlords, but also help to build confidence and rebuild skills.

She feels that she gets a lot out of the sessions herself, as with her background in library and government work she is used to working with people and has missed it.

Now, when she walks through town Elaine chats to the residents that she sees out and about, offering a friendly face that is separate from the staff that they usually deal with and so helping them to feel more accepted in the community.

She says that she sometimes still hears people blame Cosgarne when there is anti-social behaviour reported, but she is now in a position to offer a different perspective and let people decide for themselves.

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