Coronavirus has had an impact on all of our services, but even more so on the Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub (SStSH) which provides a rapid response to rough sleepers.

On Friday, 20 March, a decision was reached with Croydon Council not to take any new referrals into the SStSH. This enabled us to reduce the capacity of the service where multiple people were sleeping in a single room, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

At the start of lockdown, we had eight people at the Hub, some of whom were in the process of searching for affordable accommodation, and others who were waiting for an assessment with housing providers for supported accommodation.

The team worked intensely to find move on accommodation for each resident. They also managed to adopt a considerable amount of government guidance that informed them how to work with people safely.

When the Government announced its commitment to accommodate all rough sleepers, they outlined that it needed to be done before the weekend. Although this was welcome news, it meant that the SStSH had to shut its doors until further notice.

Alongside the Greenlight Van and Croydon Reach, we used our last day at the SStSH to conduct a triage assessment for our current residents as well as Croydon outreach clients. In total, we managed to place 15 individuals in London hotels.

This was an incredible achievement in such a short space of time. Although it was sad to close our doors, we did this knowing that our residents were in a safe place and would continue to get the support they required.

We have now made sufficient changes to the Hub so that it is ‘Covid-19 safe’, and we re-opened during the first week of November. Unfortunately, this is at a reduced capacity of just five individuals in order to meet current guidelines on social distancing, shielding and self-isolation. The prevalence of respiratory disease amongst the homeless population in our communities is high, so ensuring we can accommodate each individual in their own room is very important.

People faced with homelessness are already vulnerable to social exclusion and the loss of 10 bed spaces is going to have a big impact. There is likely to be a huge emphasis to move clients on quicker as there will be a higher demand for our limited bed spaces. Currently, there is reduced access to day centres in Croydon where rough sleepers can drop in for food, warmth and support. This will have a significant impact on the SStSH as it exists to provide an assessment service, and prior to Covid-19 we would signpost our clients to places such as Crisis and Salvation Army to get a meal and do their washing.

We are pleased to be working with Croydon’s community once again to help re-house rough sleepers in the borough and to be doing all we can to support vulnerable people who have nowhere else to turn.

What we have learnt:

  • How to navigate the government’s guidance, and translate this to our workforce.
  • The impact the pandemic has had on the wider community. With many people facing severe economic hardship, government schemes are beginning to wind down and there is likelihood that homelessness presentations will increase.

Words by Evelyn Owusu, Somewhere Safe to Stay Hub Team Manager

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