As we move into the final month of the year and Christmas starts creeping up on us, it’s about time to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. For the people we support, COVID-19 has indeed intensified some challenges, but many issues such as poor health, low wellbeing, and loneliness were problematic before the pandemic.
This year was about adapting our support to overcome those same issues, and meet those ongoing needs - health, housing and wellbeing - in the safest way. From all the way down in Brighton, to all the way up north in Manchester, Justlife has been on the frontline of homelessness support services for people living in temporary accommodation. Here are some of the highlights of our work this year.
When we went into April’s lockdown, many services closed but we knew we had to keep going to meet the immediate needs of our clients. We began delivering over 138 meals a day and still do this today, providing well over 10,000 meals in Brighton since April.
As most support services moved online, overcoming technological disadvantage became a priority because those without devices and WiFi were cut off from accessing online support. We coordinated a successful pilot project alongside Jangala to install internet access in a temporary accommodation unit (The Bay Tree), providing sim-based internet and tablets for all residents. We’re hoping to roll out this model across more premises next year.
Following many Temporary Accommodation Action Group meetings and a joint effort between ourselves, Fulfilling Lives and other homelessness services, Brighton & Hove Council are expected to adopt our emergency accommodation standards document, which makes recommendations for improving people’s living conditions.
Our Brighton team also launched Social Connection, a project that aims to address social isolation and loneliness among those moving away from homelessness by pairing them with volunteers for regular catch ups. The aim is to encourage beneficiaries to become more engaged with their communities, build stronger networks, and reduce the likelihood of returning to homelessness.
Our Manchester team responded by ensuring residents had access to all the items they needed: food, personal hygiene, cleaning products and PPE. While doing outreach work to local B&Bs, they provided safety advice tailored to each temporary accommodation setting, helping residents self-isolate, social distance, manage shared spaces and develop kitchen rotas.
We also put a strong emphasis on people’s wellbeing. Support workers regularly communicate with clients to check in and attend to their needs, on top of weekly deliveries of wellbeing resources (arts and crafts, quizzes, books, newsletters etc.) to combat boredom, and handing out free phones, and tablet devices to promote digital inclusion.
The team have also been there for people moving into temporary accommodation during the crisis, helping them settle in and start to address their wider challenges. This has involved ensuring people have access to medication, medical advice, and the benefits they’re entitled to.
We’ve also worked closely with the probation service in relation to new releases, liaising with landlords to secure rooms, and resolve rent and benefits issues to ensure a smooth transition into life outside of prison.
The research and policy team is finalising an upcoming report that gives us a window into life under lockdown for some of those experiencing hidden homelessness - specifically single households living in emergency and unsupported temporary accommodation.
This report brings to light issues that are underrepresented in mainstream coverage of the impact of COVID-19 on those experiencing homelessness. We hope its publication inspires further investigation and discussion of the topics covered. Watch this space for updates!
Life has changed quite drastically in 2020, and we’ve each grappled with our own challenges while adjusting to living alongside coronavirus. Our priority was to be there for those who faced the pandemic- and homelessness - alone, and we’ll continue to do this beyond COVID-19.