FROM THE FRONTLINE: ROUGH SLEEPERS ASSESSMENT HUB
Zainab is the Deputy Manager for our Rough Sleeper Assessment Hub, which supports people off of the streets and to move on to their next chapter. This week, she shares what lockdown has been like for the hub residents and team.
Our focus through lockdown has been on making sure our residents and the team feel safe, and their basic needs are met. For our 33 hub and 107 core residents, that’s meant having a roof over their heads, access to food and support with challenges they may be facing. This includes those who have been shielding, are struggling with their wellbeing, or need financial support or medical needs met.
Despite being in the borough with the highest death rate in the country, we haven’t had any confirmed cases of the virus in our resident group. That’s a real testament to the cooperation of residents and the work of the teams.
All hub residents have come from sleeping rough, and many have complex support needs or no recourse to public funds, and so our continued support has been absolutely essential. To be able to do this safely, we’ve had to make significant adjustments to the way we work. It’s meant a lot less face-to-face contact with residents, but we’ve made every effort to ensure they still get the support they need.
I’ve been carrying out the health checks, which we introduced at the very beginning of lockdown. Every 48 hours, I contact all hub residents to see how they are coping, check whether they are experiencing any symptoms, see if there is any support they need that we can help with and reiterating government guidelines (such as social distancing and washing hands regularly). In fact, we’ve found this very regular phone contact to be really beneficial and has helped to build rapport with residents, and so it’s something we’ll likely continue after lockdown.
For many, going from sleeping rough for long-periods of time to suddenly having a place to stay, but with rules, procedures and being told to ‘stay home, save lives’ can be quite overwhelming. Where it’s possible and safe to do so, we’ve tried to maintain a sense of normality for residents. Many have experienced trauma and every day activities can feel stressful, and so maintaining their routine and making sure we’re there to offer a helping hand has been really important.
One of the challenges they’ve faced is accessing other services. All of a sudden, they’re unable to attend appointments relating to their health, substance misuse, benefits, or attend their jobs if they have one. Barriers around language and computer skills have made this even more difficult. “Just do it online” isn’t that simple for many people we work with, so it’s another area we’ve been providing support with. An example of this is residents who are enrolled on ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses. These have now been moved online, which has made participation difficult for some. Not only has it been a barrier to services, but also for simply staying connected with friends and family while we’ve been unable to welcome visitors into the building.
But we continue to do all we can to keep morale high, keep in regular contact, and offer reassurance and support where it’s needed.
One of our residents usually keeps really busy and active, and so the lockdown restrictions had an impact on his wellbeing. When it was suggested he could volunteer on-site, he jumped at the chance. We have two courtyard areas at Your Place, and last year we had a gardening project and more recently, have been fortunate to receive donated plants to spruce the areas up. He has been nurturing the plants and the edible garden, making sure it’s watered and pruned often, and even planting some new flowers. He has injected some much needed colour and life into the outside areas, and it’s never looked so good. It’s also had a really positive impact on him, and he now has a newfound hobby.
As lockdown is now easing, we are preparing many residents who are ready to move on from Your Place. This also means that we will be able to welcome new residents into the service, who have been accommodated in hotels throughout lockdown. As one person’s YP journey ends, another one begins….