Entering into the fourth month of lockdown, since the UK Covid-19 Crisis began to impact the country, Taunton based homeless charity ‘Arc’ has been reflecting on how their services adapted to prioritise the safety of the local homeless population and what the future holds for local homeless service provision.
Looking back, it’s amazing how quickly Covid-19 turned all of our lives upside-down. Like many other organisations, Arc found itself pulled in many directions. On any one night, Arc supports 200 homeless people and so while continuing to deliver on our commitment to offer shelter, support and services to these members of our local community, we also had to ensure that everyone was kept safe.
These were major challenges that had to be overcome with real urgency. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of our staff, volunteers, and supporters, we have been able to keep our services running. This includes the continuation of accommodation and support for the 150 currently in our properties. Our hostel, Lindley House, has also remained open and staffed throughout the crisis, but with some adaptions.
Lindley House, normally has a ‘full house’ with 57 individuals under one roof, receiving 24-hour support and 3 meals per day. The boost in government funding for homelessness support and therefore the launch of Canonsgrove allowed some rough sleepers that would normally stay at Lindley and other residents with high risk health conditions were able to relocate in order to self-isolate.
Whilst this temporary accommodation is available, the pressure on our hostel service is reduced as we are now operating at 50% occupancy. With the ability to devote more time to these individuals, we are seeing a calmer environment, fewer distractions, and a highly positive outlook from clients. It has also allowed us to keep 1 floor of the property free for anyone who needs to or wants to self-isolate.
Through tough times, our spirits are being lifted by the gratefulness of our clients that our services and support remains:
"You don't have to come to work, but you have, and you have kept my home" (Lindley House clients – collective comment)
“I wanted to send a personal message to all the support workers within Arc, I think you are amazing continuing to support your clients in this difficult time. I applaud you all.” (Clare - Satellite property client)
“Thank you to Arc, the staff, not just the workers here but the cleaners, the outreach workers and everybody. They have gone way beyond the call of duty in supporting us through this difficult time. You couldn’t ask for more” (Steve - Lindley House client)
The staff at Lindley House even received a surprise gift of chocolates along with a thank you card, funded and given by the residents living there.
While we have been treated with good weather, our residents have enjoyed spending time in the gardens, getting crafty and creating artwork such as the rainbow and dedication to NHS and keyworkers, now displayed at the front of Lindley House.
One resident, Steve, is an accomplished artist and has taken his time to set up art classes and has been sitting with residents, teaching them different techniques.
We have also been delighted to see and help clients move on from our services into their own accommodation during this time, bringing some light to these difficult times.
As lockdown starts to ease, Arc are thinking of how homeless services will look post-covid. We hope that the government will continue its commitment to help. We can already see homelessness figures rising and have accepted new referrals into our services. The effects of Covid-19 could, unfortunately, mean that more people will face losing their homes.
Arc is looking forward to discussing this future with other local partners and providers. We are campaigning to keep the funding and partnership working going. It is important to us that members of our homeless community receive the services and support that will help them most. What awaits is the future of funding. After 40+ years of helping the local homeless community, Arc will continue to work hard to provide the safe and supportive services that are needed and we are ready to adapt, grow and collaborate.