An estimated 320,000 people in the UK are homeless. So what happens when everyone is asked to stay in their homes? And what happens to homelessness services?
Over the last few weeks, the situation has changed fast. Last month, the Catholic Herald spoke to Kieran Knights of the St Vincent de Paul society, who said that “things are changing on an hourly basis.” Knights said that food is in short supply due to people stockpiling goods at home. However, he added, “People are being marvellous. More and more people are volunteering to help so we will have more resources to help homeless people.”
The SVP has begun a “new and unique collaboration” with another Catholic charity, Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN). The two charities are communicating with Catholic communities around the country, asking “every parish and SVP conference to work together to reach out to the most vulnerable in their locality and to those in their own community, and to think particularly of their parish priest who may be elderly.”
Providence Row, a Catholic charity based in East London, works with rough sleepers. CEO Tom O’Connor told the Catholic Herald that in light of the government guidelines, “some rough sleepers haven’t eaten for days because members of the public aren’t out and about to donate food.”
Providence Row normally sees approximately 1800 individuals walk through its doors each year, and helps them with a wide range of services, including shelter, food, treatment referral, classes, access to universal credit and funding. It has now adapted its services to help the most vulnerable, without contravening social distancing measures. The government guidelines are issued “for everyone in the UK” without exception, which can pose problems for charities whose work involves close personal contact.
“Although we have had to close our centre temporarily,” O’Connor says, “we are running our services remotely by providing telephone support – a lot of rough sleepers have mobile telephones – water and food.
“We speak to our clients daily to help them access their medication. We have produced a wellbeing pack for our clients, which includes poetry, word games, updated advice on Covid. We are encouraging all of our clients to stay in contact and helping them understand where they can go to for support.”