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8 April, 2020
News Story


"We are proud to be frontline staff members, and will continue to do all we can to ensure the positive wellbeing of our residents."

Elif is a member of our frontline team at Caritas Anchor House. She is our Mental Health Specialist and leads on our work around resident’s health and wellbeing. This week, Elif shares how the team have had to change how they are supporting people experiencing homelessness in the face of this pandemic.

The past month has been the most unsettling period we have experienced as a staff team at Caritas Anchor House. Not only have we seen drastic changes overnight to our working structure but the reality really kicked in when entering the building to notice all the furniture in our newly refurbished lounge had been removed for social distancing purposes (pictured below). Some residents were helplessly gathering around the empty lounge and there it hit me – strong feelings of despair, hopelessness and sheer panic.

The reality is that most of our residents, sadly, have already experienced if not one but all of those feelings during their homelessness journey. But, the added pressure and uncertainty of a pandemic can easily set somebody back. It is with that realisation that our entire staff team have worked diligently to ensure our service remains safe, effective and continues to be a home for our residents. Staff have had to become multifunctional and adapt not only what they do, but how they do it.

Prior to the pandemic, Caritas Anchor House went through a period of significant change over the last three years. With that, we saw growth and meaningful change including the launch of our rough sleeper assessment hub, and the development of our wellbeing package and how that was delivered to our residents. We spent significant time developing innovative ways to promote health and wellbeing and engagement, which included involving residents in interactive workshops with mental health partners, mindfulness meditation sessions, seasonal celebration fairs and empowering residents to make changes in their local community through community organising.

So what happened? Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world hard, and broke down this positive development in a matter of days, if not, hours. We have had to enforce social distancing which means limited face-to-face contact for residents with their keyworkers and peers. We’ve cancelled all events, which usually would be a great opportunity for residents to build confidence and friendships. So the oxymoron of consistently encouraging engagement and now physically distancing everybody has left some residents feeling lost and confused.

The question is, how can we continue “business as usual” in a safe way? The answer, we develop here every day at Caritas Anchor House.

Our staff team work around the clock to complete comprehensive consultations to support residents to remain healthy, maintain a consistent level of exercise, and to manage any underlying health conditions. We’re also offering enhanced emotional support from a reasonable distance to make sure that all of our residents know that we are still here for them.

We are pleased to report that there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus within our resident group, and a very small number of people have reported symptoms such as a cough with no deterioration of health. In a building which is a home for 140 people, that really is an accomplishment and a testament to the hard work of our team and the cooperation of our residents.

We are modifying our wellbeing package daily, and responding to the needs and concerns of our residents to ensure that we maintain continuity in promoting wellbeing. As the coming days bring us new and critical information about the pandemic, we will develop safe coping strategies and review how best we can support residents. We are proud to be frontline staff members, and will continue to do all we can to ensure the positive wellbeing of our residents.

(Pictured above: Elif (left) with a colleague – taken last year. Pictured below: our residents lounge with the furniture removed to discourage social gatherings)

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