A year ago today, people were asked to stay in their homes and remain there in order to keep safe from the rapidly spreading virus. The world as we knew it ground to a halt as people adapted to conducting life from behind their front doors. But what if you didn’t have a home to retreat to?
Within hours of the Prime Minister’s announcement that the country was going into lockdown, the Nightshelter had put into place plans to ensure that we could become a 24-hour service. Residents were now able to remain indoors all day and all night. Support staff and volunteers quickly adapted to take on additional shifts and residents were moved into single rooms.
“As soon as the severity of what was happening became apparent we knew that we had to do all that we could to reduce the risk for our residents,” explains Michèle Price, Chief Executive of the Nightshelter. “People experiencing homelessness sadly have a much shorter life expectancy even without a pandemic. We had to ensure that they could stay safe. We have been a 24/7 service for all residents since that first lockdown announcement.”
Nightshelter life in lockdown
Residents were appreciative of the opportunity to stay on site all day. Especially as several residents found themselves furloughed and others had their planned moves put on hold. Staff have been attentive to the mental health of residents as they deal with setbacks caused by the pandemic and at one point over half of the residents were attending counselling or psychotherapy.
Many residents recognised how vital the help was, with one commenting: “Support has been there even through Covid. Without the help I’ve received, I don’t know where I would be now. Maybe dead or in prison.”
Support staff also kept in regular contact with vulnerable former residents to ensure that they were coping with the circumstances. From helping to order someone a new television to just having a chat, the care of the Nightshelter staff continues far beyond a resident’s stay.
Members of the community kindly donated board games, sporting equipment and video games to help residents to fill the lockdown hours. Whilst supporters of all ages rallied round to raise money at home to help fund the longer hours.
Keeping safe in lockdown
Residents, staff and volunteers worked together to reduce the risk of an outbreak of the virus on site. Strict cleaning procedures were put in place along with social distancing, mask wearing and temperature checks. Whilst volunteers were still essential for the running of the Nightshelter, the number of different people coming on site was reduced with volunteers kindly taking on additional shifts. Residents and staff have now been vaccinated to lower any risk of infection.
At the beginning of lockdown moving on options for residents were limited with few opportunities coming up. However, some residents have now been able to move on to their own accommodation with the support of Nightshelter staff.
Phil arrived at the beginning of lockdown and was last month able to move into his own flat with the help of the Nightshelter. Asked how it feels he said: “It feels great, it feels like such a big space to have all to myself.”
Rachel also stayed during the first lockdown and has since moved on. “When I came to the Nightshelter, I felt like a rabbit in headlights. I am 62 years old, it is not where I expected to find myself. In actual fact, the Nightshelter turned out to be the best thing to happen to me. I stayed ten weeks and cried when I left. It becomes like a family, with so much help and support.”
Michèle Price, Chief Executive commented on the experiences of the past year: “The last twelve months have seen our service become more crucial than perhaps ever before. The world suddenly became a scary place, especially if you didn’t have a home.
“The pandemic forced us to rethink the way we operate. We have seen the benefit for our residents of many of these changes. Going forward we would like to find a way to be able to remain a 24-hour service operating with single rooms as we are now. Thank you to everyone in the local community who has so thoughtfully and generously helped us to be there for our residents this year.”
To help the Nightshelter keep our extended service how about getting hopping this Easteer? Find out more about our Hop for the Homeless Easter fundraiser here.