As part of our “Getting to know ..” series, our Housing Options Broker, Karen, spoke to HOS volunteer, Robbie.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your role at HOS?

“My name is Karen Campbell, I’m one of Housing Options Scotland’s Brokers. I work alongside clients, helping to provide them with housing support based on their situation. I’ll offer hands-on one-to-one support, and in more recent times that’s been through email or over the telephone.

I was working with HOS previously, back when there was just three of us here. Eventually, I moved onto roles at other organisations, helping with marketing and social media, until I returned to Housing Options Scotland in 2019.”

Compared to your earlier days at HOS, what’s changed the most?

“Back when there was only three of us here, the organisation had just recently given up their offices and moved to remote working. It’s only recently we’ve got bigger, but luckily the core of what we do hasn’t changed and we’re always looking to help clients.

The biggest change from then to now is the physical contact, which has obviously been on pause because of the pandemic. We used to be out-and-about at a lot of conferences, we also had in-person client meetings and staff meetings. It’s only recently that things like this have started sprouting back up.”

What made you want to work at HOS?

“Part of the reason I work here is because of my interest in housing as a topic. If you don’t have somewhere to stay, there are so many barriers you’ll face because of that. I’m also very interested in supporting vulnerable people who don’t have the same opportunities as others. It’s very rewarding.

In the role itself, you hear back from clients about the fantastic outcomes they’ve had after being supported by us. There are obviously challenges, but when you hear that someone’s life has been changed because of our work it’s really satisfying.”

How do you support clients?

“When I’m working with clients, I’ll usually start by reading over the form they’ve sent in and then give them a call, telling them a bit about our service to make sure they know what they’ve signed up for. My first point is always to listen to what their issues are over the phone because sometimes clients won’t put everything on paper.

I’m then deciding if I need to work on one area with them, or something broader. Ideally, if a client has lots of options, we’ll put together a housing report for them. But if they’re focused on one thing – for example, if their only option is council housing – we’ll then have to figure out more specific ways of helping.”

What do you enjoy getting up to in your spare time?

“In terms of hobbies, I’ve got two young kids, so my time is limited. However, I’ve been going swimming in the sea with friends recently. I live in East Lothian, so we’ve got loads of beaches along the coast like North Berwick.

I’m quite interested in alternative therapies, so I’ve read that cold water can be good for your nervous system. When you go in the water it’s almost like shock therapy; the cold is such a shock to the system that when you return to normal temperature, your whole body feels really relaxed but also revitalised.”

What is your favourite thing about working at HOS?

“My favourite thing about Housing Options Scotland is the team. We’ve got a really nice group of people, so you feel very supported in your work. As someone with two young kids, I never feel pressure from work if I have to juggle family life with my work at HOS.

I don’t enjoy working at places with an overly-formal structure, so we’ve got a nice way of communicating as a team through group chats, which means we’re quite informal and chatty while also getting major things done for our clients.”