Washington mum swaps working in debt collecting industry to helping the homeless
A mum who used to work in the debt collecting industry is using her new found career to help turn around the lives of people living on the streets who have mental health problems.
After graduating from the University of Sunderland in 2019 with a degree in Community and Youth Work, Clare Knox now works as Project Manager at the Fells in Durham – a homeless hostel for men run by the charity Changing Lives.
Clare, 36, who lives in Washington, said: “I wanted to make a difference and positive change within communities and Changing Lives is an amazing organisation which supports the most vulnerable people within our society.
“The project I work for is a 45-bed support accommodation for males. My team and I support men with multi-complex needs such as mental health and addiction. We offer support to break the cycle of homelessness and to make a positive change.
"This helps us to improve the lives of others and for the people we support to integrate successfully back into the community.”
It’s a major career change for Clare who previously worked for 10 years as a Collections Advisor in the debt recovery process.
She added: “My life is extremely different now. I’m more confident in my role and I adore my job. I go to work every morning happy that I’m part of this outstanding charity.
"Knowing I try and make a change and improve people’s lives every day – that doesn’t seem like a job to me.”
Gill Curtis, Service Manager at Changing Lives in Durham, added: “Clare is extremely passionate about the work she does and is dedicated to supporting the vulnerable residents she works with.
"The qualification she gained via the University has enabled Clare to understand this area of business and quickly progress to a Project Lead role.
“I’m certain she is only at the start of a very successful career with Changing Lives and I would encourage anyone thinking of a career in this sector to follow the educational path that Clare has taken.”
Clare hopes her story will encourage other people who may be dissatisfied with their current career to take the plunge and make a change, whatever their age.
She said: “It’s never too late to make change in your life and to follow your passion. Completing my degree has inspired my 13-year-old son to do the same. It was one of the best feelings for my family and son to watch me graduate.”
Liz Woolley, Senior Lecturer in Community and Youth Work Studies, said: “Clare epitomises the message we are so proud of on our course - someone who has committed themselves to working with people and communities who’ve been ignored by many.
“As a student Clare shaped her future through dedicated study and creating opportunities, and as an employee at Changing Lives she is using these experiences to create opportunities for others. We are so proud.”
Anyone who would like to donate to the project can do so via the charity’s website.