“NOAH is always concerned for the most disadvantaged in society no matter what the circumstances. This current situation has changed the circumstances of a number of people that we work with. In some respects it’s good, because there’s a serious effort to make sure people who are rough sleeping in Luton and Central Bedfordshire are offered immediate free and unconditional accommodation – which is amazing – and that has happened and rough sleeping has plummeted.
A lot of our work that was previously happening in the Welfare Centre has changed, the centre is closed to clients, but we’re still providing meals wherever they are. NOAH has gone mobile, delivering to hotels or wherever they’re staying.
Our outreach presence has continued and hasn’t changed all that much, we’re still doing a high level of outreach in Luton and Central Beds to make sure support is still available for people who are rough sleeping.
A lot of services have gone to telephone only – while this is fine for some people, some of the people we work with may have a telephone today but not have one tomorrow. So we’ve still kept our presence at the front door, and are still delivering triage for them there to understand what their basic needs are. We still allow clients to use our phone, but not come into the building. We’re hoping to reach a level of consistency at the end of this 12 week period.
We’re implementing the usual stuff like handwashing with staff. We’re one of the few buildings still with staff in it so we’re having to implement high standards of hygiene. Some staff members live with elderly and vulnerable family members, and there’s some staff who have health conditions and haven’t been able to keep working.
[Can you tell us about some positive things that you’ve experienced in the last few weeks?]
“Rough sleeping in Luton and Central Beds has absolutely plummeted. At the start of this there were around 40 people sleeping rough in Luton, which is now down to 5. The government had an agenda to eliminate rough sleeping in 5 years, which has happened in the space of a few days. How sustainable that is, though, isn’t clear.
We specialise in supporting EU rough sleepers, and we have people saying “I desperately want to get back home, I don’t want to sleep on the streets of Luton”. We managed to get them on the last few flights home and now they’re letting us know they’re back with their family. Every day another country shuts its borders so it’s pleasing to know we were able to get them home.
The third thing I’m grateful for is that the people in our accommodation projects are settled and doing well, and self-isolating. We’re trying to give them entertainment and keep them in their house, and those in the houses are generally really supportive of each other
Staff are amazing, really sacrificial and going out of their way to support people. We were instantly down to skeleton staffing, and our staff are offering to cover each other a lot and be really flexible to help fill in the gaps. Everyone’s working really hard to offer everyone the help they need.
I feel a sense of responsibility for wanting to make sure that the most vulnerable people in society aren’t overlooked and I think we’re achieving this. I feel this has changed the landscape in terms of our work with people who are homeless and there’s going to be a lot to learn from this and we’ll come out looking at the reasons we do things, and the way we do things, and we’ll come out delivering better services on the other side.
Thank you all for your continued support of the work of NOAH – some of our income has been severely affected by this in terms of our training and employment work and our succession of our social enterprise. So in order to continue our work it would be fantastic to donate to our JustGiving fund.”
Paul Prosser, Head of Welfare Services, NOAH Enterprise