COVID – An insight into what St Paul’s has been doing

COVID - An insight into what St Paul’s has been doing?

In addition to our existing accommodation, St Paul’s worked with the local authority to acquire a 14 bedroom property in Ombersley Road, Worcester, in direct response to the COVID 19 pandemic ensuring that all known rough sleepers were offered a ‘safe place to stay’. We diversified our support workers to include this cohort and all rough sleepers who were accommodated at other properties acquired by the council, including The Fownes Hotel, Worcester.

The homeless community is a challenging area of work, exacerbated by the pandemic and the restrictions brought in by government in response to the crisis. Our staff have excelled, ensuring the demand on services and resources continues to be met across all accommodation within our portfolio, including the Rough Sleeper accommodation ensuring support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

St Paul’s has been at the forefront of coordinating, supporting & implementing services across the homeless community during this unprecedented time.  Staff have gone and continue to go above and beyond their working hours to ensure that all participants in the St Paul’s cohort are supported and have access to essential services.

Testimony to the relationships and respect built between residents and staff, we have been humbled by the way that residents have also stepped forward to help us and each other by volunteering their time to help.

Soup Kitchens have been integral to the project in their delivery of daily hot evening meal and lunch bag. The Soup Kitchens worked within a Rota based system, using their own volunteers. The Street Kitchens involved included Sunday Café; Salvation Army; Good Soil Project; Street Café and Worcestershire Homeless Appeal

St Paul’s are working cohesively across all sectors to ensure that there is an appropriate, time critical exit plan for rough sleepers to move into settled move-on accommodation to prevent return to the street/rough sleeping.  Jonathan Sutton, CEO of the charity Chair’s a County Wide Recovery Group to address the needs of the homeless community as we enter post COVID period and in the case of local and/or national lockdown should that be required with recorded increased of COVID-19 cases.

An essential, and very successful element of St Pauls’ delivery is our Direct Access Counselling Programme and Mindfulness sessions. These programmes are vital in delivering Trauma Informed Care; however, the impact of COVID-19, self-isolation and social distancing put the ability to deliver this programme at risk.  Movement restrictions, self-isolation and social distancing has inevitably impacted on the behaviour and mental health of our residents, as well as increasing pressure on staff resources.

Our frontline staff have had an increased workload, added pressures and we see this remaining much the same in the coming months; at least until we have a clearer picture of what ‘post Covid life’ will look like.  In the meantime we are mindful to minimise the impact as much as possible so that we can continue to provide the help our residents’ require to continue their program of recovery and rehabilitation. To this end, we have installed basic SMART TV’s in each residents’ rooms, the Rough Sleeper accommodation and the Housing First cohort.  This ensures they have a connection to a support network via digital means and when required, access to continue their counselling sessions.  This has also ensured that reduced congregation in communal areas in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

We have been fortunate to receive some funding during the pandemic and it has helped the residents and staff of St Pauls immensely, but further financial support is needed.

Residents were understandably anxious when lockdown happened and changes that had to be put in place to keep everyone safe. Obviously this now remains as we continue to live in a very uncertain time.

We encourage residents to stay in and limit their outside activities as much as possible, which could have proved more challenging if we hadn’t received funding to provide televisions in each room. This has had a positive impact on the residents; we have also seen a reduction in any disputes in the hostel.  For some this has helped connect them with the outside world and helped them relax. The staff have reported a quieter and calmer hostel and seeing this impact, we are looking to the future and aim to continue supplying TV’s in residents’ rooms as a standard item.

The funding also helped to cover some of the costs of additional staff hours and enabled us to recoup some of our lost revenue due to changing all double occupancy rooms into single occupancy.  We are mindful that this funding, although welcomed, is only for a limited period of time.

The funding also enabled us to provide additional training and support for our staff, ensuring we are equipped to recognise and better manage the changes, challenges and experiences of our residents.  To this end we have a) refreshed Trauma Informed and Mental Health training to current and new team members, b) ensured that all current and new team members attend Motivational Interview Training and c) deliver Mindfulness/Stress & Anxiety training across the staff team and residents.  Where appropriate, this training is done on a one-to-one basis and via digital means.

Everyone at St Paul’s, including the Trustees, staff and residents have gone above and beyond to ensure that everyone needs are meet; the homeless community are safe and the spread of COVID amongst this vulnerable community has been minimised.