The weekend has been busy. Hope House, is running at 160% capacity, and we have 21 homeless people staying. With so many clients and a second wave of coronavirus imminent, everyone is worried about staying safe- but we’ve managed it before, we’ve not had a single case of coronavirus in the hostel so far.
Three new homeless people have come forward to be assessed as to whether they can stay at Hope House, and I also need to see four more of my clients before the day is over. By the afternoon, I’m running behind, and clients ask me when they’re going to be able to see me.
The news breaks that parts of the country are going back into local lockdowns. Clients are scared. The hostel is entirely communal living, and they worry about the virus spreading and getting unwell. I try to reassure them things will be OK, but feel worried as some of our clients are very vulnerable.
We have 21 clients staying with us and a desperate need to free up crisis beds in the hostel. Luckily, today is moving day for one of my clients. We’ve found him a new home and he’s thrilled to be moving.
We don’t have a moving van, so several of our staff team pack up his possessions in our cars, and head over to his new home. We spend the morning setting up his bill payments and thinking about a budget. With such a chronic shortage of social housing available, this client has been lucky, and I want to give him the best chance of maintaining a tenancy.
When I get back, I find out one of my clients is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus. He’s living in one of our “move on” homes. They’re designed for people who are transitioning between homelessness and living independently. I’m relieved he’s not staying in the hostel, but his move on home is part of a larger building. The whole building has to go into lockdown whilst we try and get him a test. People are really unhappy about this, but we don’t have a choice.
I spend the whole afternoon trying to sort out getting him a test, which turns out to be difficult as we can’t drive the client to a test site. We’re forced to rely on a postal test, which could take days or weeks to return a result. I can’t help feeling frustrated. Like so many others, homeless people have slipped through the net with testing.
I spend my morning going from phone call to phone call; trying to speak to services like housing, probation, and drug/alcohol agencies who provide services to our clients.
Now that most services are working from home and delivering support over the telephone or online, it’s really hard for clients to get help. A lot of them don’t have telephones or access to the internet, so it’s on Hope support staff to try to book appointments and schedule phone calls. It’s an extra pressure on me, but I know the clients are grateful.
With an average of 20 homeless people staying at Hope House every night, the hostel is extremely busy. Clients are bored and frustrated that they’re not able to move on, and things start to get tense. To calm things down, I encourage some of the clients to do some gardening. Then I help one of our wardens cook lunch for all the clients. I try not to think about the growing pile of paperwork on my desk.
First thing, I drive to pick up a food collection from a supermarket. When I arrive back at the hostel, we discover the food is mouldy and there is a dirty kitchen towel stuffed in one of the crates. I feel frustrated. I wonder if the staff at the supermarket realise that the food they put out for us is supposed to feed the clients, and is not going to the dump. I don’t want to appear ungrateful, but if I speak to the manager, perhaps it will help improve staff awareness of what we do at Hope and how important donations are to us.
I have a key working session with one of my clients, who came to the hostel a few weeks ago. He’s come straight from prison and had nowhere to go. One by one we work through his issues: housing, probation, and problems with this family. By the end of the session, he’s relieved. He says I’m the only person who he feels has properly listened to him in a while. I hope being listened to makes him feel more positive about his future.
I’m back picking up another food collection. We normally have volunteers who help us pick up food, but now that most people have returned to work they are unable to continue volunteering in that way. Our whole staff team has pulled together to make sure we can carry on picking up collections, but it’s tough.
I get a phone call in the afternoon from a couple who are stuck in an overcrowded house. Four adults and a new-born baby are sharing one room; they’re worried about coronavirus and their baby getting unwell, but they can’t afford to live anywhere else right now. We do have a flat for homeless families, but it’s already occupied by a family. All I can do is refer them to housing services and tell them there’s nothing more we can do for them at the moment.
It’s upsetting. I feel deflated. All they need is someone to give them a little bit of support, and it’s hard knowing I can’t help everyone.