Stories from Lockdown

In our recent newsletter, we wrote about the impact of COVID-19 on our service users. We think these stories are too important not to share have turned them into a blog to help you our 4-months of lockdown. Read part one of this blog by visiting this link.

Support worker, Lucy:

Lucy is a Senior Support Worker within Homelessness Services and has been talking about those first few days in March where managing social distancing at the homeless day service and the night shelters was very difficult and so disheartening.  She said she felt awful that those who were street homeless were only able to come into the day service for half an hour at a time.  Lucy says concern about Coronavirus grew day by day amongst the clients but she described her excitement at being able to tell them that they would be moving to the hotel. She said she remembers “explaining to them all that they were going, they were so excited, the minibus was outside”.  Lucy popped back to the hotel next day, before her shift “it was so quiet because they hadn’t been in a real bed for such a long time”.

Lucy tells me she is so proud of what everyone involved has achieved “I love that we have all of these people under one roof, all support staff are here, mental health nurses coming in, wellbeing services to do smoking cessation, all the support that they need. We have two bedrooms for one to one sessions and even a donation room.  Charity shops have dropped off clothing, local supermarkets have donated food, packages for staff and even Easter Eggs”. She said “The volunteers are brilliant, jumped straight in, know exactly what they are doing and they are getting on with the service users”   She tells me that there is such a “warm” feeling of “everyone working together to make the best of a strange situation. We have everything we need, hand sanitiser, soaps, PPE and social distancing is being well observed”.

We asked Lucy about behaviour in the hotel, “of course we’ve seen a bit of trouble every now and again, I don’t think it is anything more than we would have seen within our normal services and we deal with it fine in the same way as we would normally” She went on to say that “having them here is far safer than having everyone on the street as it would have got to the point of us not being able to run the day service or night shelter”.  Lucy said that here she is seeing positive changes in people because they have the security of a bed, they are washing daily, dressing nicely and looking generally healthier.  She, like others, is concerned to know what will happen next.

Service user, Peter:

Peter was moved into SSJ’s isolation property early on due to underlying health conditions, Peter said “I was welcomed by staff and the staff were amazing”.  He was then moved to one of the hotels, somewhat daunted at first but after being met by “smiling faces” the transition was made easier.  When Peter first heard about the Coronavirus he was accessing the City’s Homeless Day Service and night shelters.  Peter said he didn’t understand the severity of the situation at first he said “I just thought it was the government trying to get rid of me!”  Before accessing local services, Peter had been released from prison with nowhere to live. In prison he had always had a cell mate with no privacy so being in his own hotel room he said “is like a breath of fresh air, I have some freedom back”.  Peter is concerned that once social distancing is relaxed it will be a big step backwards for him and he will likely have to return to homelessness services but is determined to take the opportunities made available to him.

Overcoming challenges, Owen:

Owen was impacted by Coronavirus when he lost his job and was made homeless by his landlord, despite being a good tenant. Within days Owen had decided to end his life, but circumstances drew him to SSJ where he was made welcome at the IBIS hotel in Portsmouth during the lockdown. When Owen first arrived at the hotel, he was in a state of despair, having lost his confidence and faith in the world, but thanks to the help of the support workers that soon changed.

Owen tells me that “since being at the hotel has landed on his feet” thanks to the “amazing support work” on offer which has helped Owen overcome some of his original issues and he has now started planning ahead for a future where he hopes to become a support worker for people in a similar position.

He says, “since being around the support workers, I finally have an ambition, I finally have a goal.” When talking about how the support has helped him, Owen describes it as finally being able to lift his head out from underwater – something he puts down to the care provided by all of those who have supported him since the start of lockdown.

“If it wasn’t for this place I don’t think I would still be here,” says Owen, “they have actually listened, they have sat with me and treated me like a human being for the first time in my life.”

Don’t forget to read part one of this blog to hear more stories from the frontline.

Images: Photo on front page, Lucy, top image: Peter with Volunteer, Owen)