How funding support will help SPEAR during Covid-19

How funding support will help SPEAR during Covid-19

Through SPEAR’s Covid-19 emergency safety and support measures, we will continue to make people as safe and supported as possible across all our projects throughout this pandemic.Your funding will enable SPEAR to provide the best support during this difficult period, whilst also supporting people to adjust back to life after the pandemic.

Last year, SPEAR worked directly with over 800 people and delivered over 7,000 interventions with vulnerable people who experienced homelessness.

Funding will help keep SPEAR’s core services running during this crisis, support our additional emergency safety measures and provide the resources needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Covid-19 safety and support measures and resources will help make safe:

  • 250 people who are rough sleeping and homeless in South West London

(rough sleepers are being placed in emergency accommodation in line with the government’s mission to help all rough sleepers off the streets to stop the spread of Covid-19)

  • 186 SPEAR residents living in our supported accommodation projects or in independent accommodation supported by a Key Worker
  • Staff and SPEAR clients who visit our Hub in Twickenham for Key Worker support
  • Back office staff working from home and our central Briar Road services

(including staff unable to work on the front line due to their own health conditions)

To accomplish this, SPEAR needs to:

  1. Implement health and safety guidelines for staff and clients
  2. Adapt our services to respond to Covid-19
  3. Provide health and safety (PPE) equipment (hand sanitisers, disposable masks, coveralls, nitrile gloves, surface sanitiser)
  4. Support rough sleepers off the streets into accommodation, provide emergency transportation and items such as bedding, food, mobile phones, microwaves etc.
  5. Provide our residents in our hostels and accommodation projects that are self-isolating or in need of supplies with additional provisions and food; utilising local authority and volunteer support networks
  6. Supply technology to enable our workers to connect with our services and clients remotely and record and track our Covid-19 support and supplies

SPEAR has acted and will continue to act:

  1. To keep staff and clients safe, we updated our health and safety guidelines, completed a situational risk assessment and shared infection control information. We continue to update these guidances.
  2. Services have scaled down or adapted to allow for social distancing and this has taken considerable co-ordination. Our accommodation projects and outreach team continue to function with social distancing measures. Our main drop-in centre operates by appointment only and distributes food and essential supplies.  Head Office is closed to visitors and operates with a skeleton senior staff with others home working.  Our health and wellbeing teams are checking on client welfare and arranging urgent appointments remotely.  Skills development workers offer remote support and are exploring ways to provide meaningful activity and befriending support.
  3. Sourcing adequate Personal Protection Equipment continues to be challenging but we are distributing these items as and when we can get supplies.  We commissioned new cleaning services after individual cleaners were no longer able to work and a deep clean was needed in some of our accommodation projects.
  4. Following instruction from the Greater London Authority and local authorities, we mobilised all outreach and navigator workers to find and accommodate all rough sleepers in Richmond, Kingston, Sutton and Wandsworth. Over 400 people have been accommodated since March 2020. We will continue to find and support people rough sleeping as numbers rise over the coming months with new referrals and verifications on the streets. Due to the speed at which we are accommodating people, we need to provide emergency transportation and source urgent items such as bedding, towels, microwaves, mobile phones and chargers.  Shopping restrictions are making this difficult.
  5. We are working closely with the local authority and with volunteer support networks to utilise local volunteer food supplies such as hot meals, tinned goods, cleaning products and other essential items for our residents and those in emergency accommodation who have recently come off the streets; some who are dispersed more widely in terms of their location. Whilst many of our standard volunteer roles at SPEAR have been put on hold due to Covid-19 and social distancing restrictions, we are implementing plans on utilising SPEAR volunteers further to distribute essential items to our residents and those in emergency accommodation.
  6. An online phone/video system and other technology has been implemented to facilitate remote working to allow our staff to work effectively in self-isolation and from home where possible. This has been essential for all our staff to communicate effectively both on the frontline and in the back office. We are utilising technology systems and databases to record all our work with rough sleepers and our residents and also to track the purchasing of additional Covid-19 resources to support our Covid-19 safety and support measures.

The impact Covid-19 has had on the people SPEAR supports:

The biggest impact is the need for people who are rough sleeping or vulnerably housed to socially isolate / distance.  For those already living in our hostels and homes this means putting safety measures in place.  For those on the streets, this means moving them into accommodation.

We have seen a rise in new people on the streets as a result of Covid-19, due to people who are vulnerably housed losing accommodation e.g. sofa surfers and younger people with older relatives being asked to leave properties and people leaving home after domestic disputes which occurred while self-isolating.

Rough sleepers experience vulnerabilities that put them at greater risk of catching and being gravely affected by the virus such as: lack of access to washing facilities means personal hygiene is limited; common physical health issues (blood borne virus, chest and breathing problems, compromised immune systems) mean the impact of the virus would be severe with a high risk of mortality; mental health issues and substance misuse mean they may not a follow recommendations for social distancing.

More people will end up rough sleeping in the coming months, particularly vulnerable groups who are currently hidden, such as young people, women in exploitative relationships, LGBGTQ.  Additionally, prisoners who are released early from prisons and those previously homeless that are leaving hospital may return to the streets.

Those newly accommodated or in our hostels / semi-independent properties will face challenges: people used to rough sleeping may not comply with social isolation / distancing rules. We are likely to also see an increase in mental health issues as a result of social isolation and the withdrawal of social / welfare activities provided by services in the community.

Further impact Covid-19 has had on SPEAR:

All community fundraising events have ceased significantly impacting our income.  This income is vital to keep our core services functioning.

We are operating with c15% staff absence due to illness or self-isolation (because of health conditions) but expect this to rise. Non-essential operational staff will be redeployed and locums will be used in front line roles to cover absences.

Further steps SPEAR is taking:

We mobilised teams quickly to respond to Covid-19. All outreach and navigators worked in the community, moving rough sleepers off the streets as quickly as possible and verifying new people arriving.  People were triaged, according to vulnerability.  We have been working with local authorities to refer people into accommodation in each borough, which comprises mostly B+Bs, hotels and corporate / university lets.  After 12 weeks, we will either extend tenure or source move-on accommodation.

Once people are accommodated, we are purchasing items to make homes habitable (bedding, towels etc), to meet essential needs and enable social-isolation (e.g. microwaves and food).  We face difficulties due to availability and shopping restrictions and will be working with local authorities to explore longer term solutions.

Next, we will address people’s physical and mental health needs, register with GPs, arrange urgent appointments and prescriptions, and link in with substance misuse agencies.  We must operate harm reduction strategies for clients who have addictions who cannot abstain without medical supervision.  We are helping clients with applications for Universal Credit and housing applications.  Currently we are exploring which support services continue to run in the community and which are operating remotely or have closed.

On the ground level, it is dealing with emotional responses – clients who are scared, clients who are really entrenched and don’t want to be forced inside, clients who want to be accommodated, but now have to cope with the restriction of four walls, and in some cases, self-isolating.

We are advising residents already accommodated in hostels and shared houses around health and safety and adapting their support to enable social isolation/ distancing and managing communal areas.  Our services continue to explore ways to support clients who are isolated and in accommodation to prevent mental health deteriorating, such as virtual befriending, and issuing mobile phones or tablets and dongles so people can access online support and social networking.

Longer term thinking around Covid-19:

The situation is continually evolving and so much of our work and planning will be reactive to the pandemic itself and its impact on the people we support; new directives from central government / the Greater London Authority; and unpublished guidance from Public Health England / NHS on clinic protocol and safe ways of supporting people who are homeless.

While the pandemic is posing a serious risk to the lives of our vulnerable client group, we may also be facing a unique opportunity: to work with large numbers of people who were previously hidden from our services, or who previously refused to engage in our support.  Some newly accommodated rough sleepers are taking this opportunity to get their lives back – getting on benefits, sorting out drug / alcohol / mental health issues, looking for work, getting longer term housing and actively engaging with our support.  Others have been in floods of tears, completely overwhelmed by the quality of their accommodation and that they have gone from sleeping on a park bench to relative luxury.  Others are struggling to make the adjustments, and some aren’t yet ready to accept a placement.

Through our Covid-19 safety and support measures, we will continue to make people as safe and supported as possible across all our projects throughout this pandemic.  Your funding will enable SPEAR to not only provide the best support during this difficult period, but also will also support people to adjust back to life after the pandemic.