Stepping into another worker’s shoes

I recently had the opportunity to accompany Bianca, one of our tenancy workers, to the Tenancy Tribunal. A client had accumulated substantial rental arrears and was refusing to engage with Bonnie’s.

On the way over, I discovered that the client was someone with whom I had formed a good connection. I had completed the intake with her some months ago and remembered that she was in a dire position as she was in temporary accommodation. She had been warm and engaging and was very appreciative of being housed by Bonnie’s. I was also aware that the family had suffered ongoing challenges this past year.

Upon arriving, Bianca briefed me about the procedures and the terminology used in the tribunal. A Member (or an arbitrator) is appointed; their role is to make decisions after a short mediation process. While sitting in the room, I felt quite tense – there was a feeling of angst in the air. Small groups of people sat around looking guarded, each carrying papers and dressed a little more formally than usual.

The client entered, noticed us and briefly smiled. Upon starting, the member asked if we were all willing to go into another room to conduct mediation: everyone obliged. Bianca had all the necessary documentation in her hands. This was vital as she was required to provide all the payments and dates that were relevant to the tenancy.

The client appeared very anxious as she realised that she could face eviction. It was very difficult for me to see her so overwhelmed; I couldn’t help but feel concerned. In mediation, Bianca was able to state valid reasons for eviction yet also expressed kindness and flexibility towards her. I felt stressed and anxious during this process, finding it hard to be in the middle of this conflicted situation. I could see that Bianca was willing to negotiate with the client for her and her family’s best outcome but she also remained firm when necessary. This was quite a skill as at times the client became defensive.

I started to understand the complexity of the tenancy role; preparing leases, lease signing and property maintenance is a core part of the role as well as having to follow tenancy laws and procedures and having to be up-to-date with any changes. It all seemed a bit daunting.

Maintaining a tenancy can be problematic for many clients for varied reasons. Tenancy workers have to develop skills and connections with clients, to create a good working relationship throughout the tenancy. They must also be trauma-informed and have an understanding of why some clients choose not to engage even when it could be detrimental to their tenancy.

Observing Bianca, I witnessed her kindness and compassion in how she treated the client. It’s what allowed the client to trust and to work with Bianca, to achieve a fair and reasonable outcome for all. I was relieved.

I was happy to return to the office and even happier to return to my role. I came back to Bonnie’s feeling a much greater appreciation for Bianca and the tenancy team and the work that they do. What champions!

Written by Alison D. Photo by Claire Anderson on Unsplash

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