Gerard outside Alexandra House


Plumbing, planning and prioritising: a day managing Alexandra House

Located in the centre of Croydon, Alexandra House serves as a vital source of support for 80 single homeless people up to 65 years of age with a range of support needs. Gerard Kona, the manager of this busy service, is the driving force behind its daily operations.

We spoke to him to find out about his daily routine, and how he ensures that Alexandra House provides a safe place for people experiencing homelessness.

“Every day at Alex House is unique, and my role as a manager is the same. Take yesterday, for example. It began at seven in the morning. I walked into the hostel, and the night staff informed me about a pressing issue – no running hot water. This sort of thing does not happen often, but inevitably in such big buildings with so many people, there are sometimes issues.

It was clear that managing customer expectations was a top priority. After all, running water is a necessity. I immediately started coordinating efforts to resolve the situation, making phone calls, and organising support from the maintenance team.

We had water flowing again shortly after, and I drafted a letter of apology to our customers for the inconvenience.”

As Gerard navigates through the day, he is continually balancing various responsibilities. He meets with staff members, holds meetings with external providers, and collaborates with customers to address their unique support needs.

“One particularly urgent case involved a tenant facing eviction due to unpaid charges. Working closely with my colleague Sylvia, we managed to resolve the issue and agreed on a repayment plan. Ensuring our customers’ wellbeing and stability is our top priority. She felt supported, and at the end of the meeting, she felt listened to because eviction is not what we’re here for. Rather, we want to be able to support and enable customers to sustain their placement here.

Around midday, I received a call from my housekeeper, Mario, reporting another issue with a customer. This customer was not maintaining their self-care and had taken to sleeping in the lounge. I intervened, facilitating communication with the customer and helping them transition back to their room.

Collaboration with my team is essential in addressing complex support needs. Many of our customers struggle with mental health issues and substance misuse, making our job challenging. We constantly strive to balance meeting short-term expectations with long-term sustainability.

In between tasks, I had to deal with external agencies and coordinate moves for customers with complex needs. This often involves liaising with agencies specialising in mental health, substance misuse, and more. It’s about working together as a team. Without external agencies, it wouldn’t be possible for us to do the job.

In the afternoon I met with my manager Richard to discuss team issues and the challenges we face with our customer base, especially those with complex support needs. We also addressed placement issues and potential moves for customers who are ready to live in their own independent homes. These can be quite intricate when working with external agencies and multiple stakeholders.

As the day progressed, I received a report of some antisocial behaviour in the neighbourhood, which we take very seriously. Again, with so many people staying it is inevitable that there are sometimes issues, but we engage with local residents, businesses and community forums to address them. Our team conducts patrols and responds promptly to complaints, always striving to maintain a positive relationship with the community.

Working in a place like Alexandra House can certainly be challenging, but we have fantastic people here, both customers and colleagues. I manage and support my team through regular one-on-one meetings, and an ongoing open-door policy. We hold weekly team meetings to discuss any issues or achievements, I provide support like extra training when needed, and team members can contact me directly. We also have a “Star of the Week” award to acknowledge exceptional performance. Communication is vital, and I value input from all team members.  We work collectively to address issues like voids, and everyone plays a role in maintaining our standards. Our structured approach helps us handle immediate concerns effectively, and our low staff turnover shows that we are successful.”

Gerard’s dedication to supporting our customers is evident. Under his leadership Alexandra House continues to offer high quality accommodation and support to people who have been homeless in Croydon, proving that compassion and dedication can truly change lives.

If you would like more information about Alexandra House click here .

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