A selection of drawings from our Service users, produced from the art packs we sent out to them:

 

 

Covid – 19 Our response so far:

We have been continuing to support our service users to make sure we can continue our vital work.

Transforming operations We have converted all our working to be home-based, with all documents put online, and closed the office.

This has meant that we have been able to continue casework with all current clients, and support new clients who we are engaging through our emergency accommodation hostel work.

We have helped our vulnerable and anxious service-users to isolate and to receive food parcels, medicine, and prescriptions, in conjunction with health and social care professionals from other organisations, while also providing ongoing emotional support to them.

A lot of this work has been really challenging support work with service users whose already poor mental health has been severely affected by the crisis. It has also involved extremely difficult work with service users who are refusing to adopt social distancing.

Promoting mental health for our service users. Mental health has been one of our key concerns. Most of our service users have exhibited high levels of anxiety, and we have developed innovative ways of continuing to provide creative engagement activities and opportunities. We are supporting our service users’ mental health in a number of ways:

  • Regular one-to-one check-in calls.
  • Our qualified counselling volunteer, Mark, is providing weekend phone counselling sessions.
  • Our Creative WhatsApp group has proven a fantastic example of peer support, with literally thousands of messages over the last 4 weeks.
  • We developed ‘arts packs’ for all our service users, with about £15 worth of arts materials in each pack, and have been setting daily arts challenges. The response to the arts packs has been amazing.
  • We are now live-streaming our creative sessions on Zoom.
  • We are liaising with the Homeless Mental Health Team to ensure our service users have access to appropriate and timely professional mental health support.

We have set up a joint mental health working group with The Booth Centre, MASH, Barnabus and the Homeless Mental Health Team, to plan a range of activities that are being delivered remotely in the new emergency accommodation hostels.

Staffing the new accommodation for all Manchester’s homeless.
We provided our own staff and volunteers, and have rapidly recruited over 45 new volunteers, to support the government ‘Everyone Inside’ directive of 22 March to house all the homeless in Manchester in self-isolating single-room accommodation. This has significantly accelerated its implementation, by enabling the staffing of the night shifts in 4 of the 10 hostels in operation, all of which newly opened, that house 331 rough sleepers.

Shaping the future: No Going Back We are a key part of the Covid-19 Joint Planning Group to plan for the future. This is working on a housing solution for the previously homeless after the directive ends in June, so that there is no going back to the streets, or to other previous issues. Specific sub-groups looking at various aspects of what is a huge challenge.

It’s been a fantastic example of partnership working, and we are all committed to maintaining it. The financial issues are horrendous though, and there are no easy answers.

Nurturing our staff  We have been working very hard on nurturing our staff throughout this; we still have the regular 121 support and supervision sessions, and our monthly external group supervision. In addition, Sue, who facilitates the group supervision, has amazingly offered 121 support chats with all our staff for free, which is fantastic! We have managed to maintain at least weekly team meetings to stay in touch, and on a Wednesday night after our Zoom creative session, we had a staff Zoom party, which was awesome.

Equipping our service-users with digital technology. We have received some funding to provide devices to our 50% of service-users who are currently less digitally connected.

We are working on achieving wider distribution of these, in the context of the communication companies’ set limits on the number of devices.