In a matter of weeks, life as we knew it has changed for us all. The daily structure eradicated and quickly replaced by a new way of being. We are all at the mercy of uncertainty, with many desperately wanting answers, progress reports, indications of when we can plan again and others cherishing the break from routine. But what if before the Coronavirus made its entrance, you were already living at rock bottom?
Many of our residents were existing in their own desperate, challenging and uncertain times. Whether it was a bereavement, family break up, job loss, addiction battles, mental health issues or one of the many other reasons that can lead to homelessness – they knocked on our door because they had nowhere else to go.
Some of our residents were lost and in need of help in what was then, a more predictable world. Each resident had an idea of what they needed to do to move forwards and hopefully overcome some of their obstacles. Our support staff had worked one-to-one with each resident to plan how to try and escape the cycle of homelessness.
Suddenly, their promised trajectory to a better and more secure existence disintegrated as it has for so many, the goalposts moved. For those who had already made some progress, they have been sent back to square one. Residents have lost their jobs, the pause button has been pressed on housing options, some support services they relied on have stopped or been forced to adapt. It is hard for us all, but times are even more precarious for the already vulnerable.
Last year, a quarter of our residents arrived with mental health problems. We are aware that the future is now even more of a daunting place for anyone who is currently homeless. It is unsettling for the strongest people but for many of our residents it is even more of a challenge. The world was asked to retreat to the safety of our own homes, a luxury our residents didn’t have.
Recognising our residents needed a place to stay ‘home’, we have expanded our service at a time when many Nightshelters have closed. Residents can now stay on site 24 hours a day, they can also still access support, counselling and psychotherapy. Our support workers have been regularly calling former residents during lockdown to check in and see how they are coping practically and psychologically.
Many people will carry a scar of this pandemic for years to come, our hope is that we can find the funds to increase our support to former residents on a long term basis so that we can hold their hand a bit longer in what has become a more uncertain world.
Paul, is spending lockdown at the Nightshelter after suffering a bereavement: “My mum died, and I had to get out as I didn’t have the money at the time to pay to stay as I was only working part-time, so that’s why I am here.”
Paul has managed to keep his job during the pandemic, working part-time Monday to Friday as a cleaner. He is saving so he can move into his own flat but for now any move looks unlikely: “My hopes for the future,” explains Paul, “are for my wife and our son to move over from the Philippines so that we can be together as a family. But for now the paperwork we were sorting out has been put on hold.”
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