I would like to start by giving an update on the work that we have undertaken throughout the Covid period.

Back in March, I spoke about the great work in Plymouth that had taken place accommodating 26 people over a six-day period to get people off of the streets and into accommodation. The staff from our Drop-in Centre were transferred to work in the two houses to support the people temporarily living in those properties. That was an incredible piece of work, but I think for many of us involved, it raised more questions than answers about why we could do it now and we haven’t been able to do it before.

During the last month, or so, one of the houses has been closed and the people that were living in that property have found alternative accommodation across the city. Nobody has had to go back to living on the streets which is important to note. We are left with one house now which, I think, is far more manageable. The Drop-in Centre staff that were supporting the residents have now moved back to Bath Street where the service has been re-opened, albeit, on a very different basis.

Due to Covid restrictions, we can only have a limited amount of people in the Drop-in Centre at any one time, so we are working very closely with Path’s outreach team on an appointment basis. During the day, there are now three time slots between 8–10am, 10–12pm and 12–2pm where people can come in and get the support that they need. I have to say that whilst we were all apprehensive about the changes, it has worked really well.

Whilst we are clearly working with less people due to the restrictions, the outcomes that we are achieving are remarkable. For example, around two weeks ago, we had two people come in who were sleeping on the streets and by the time the staff had finished working with them and they left Bath Street, they headed straight into accommodation. That shows what we can do when we have the appropriate time and space to give people the support that they need. 

As for the other Shekinah projects, most the projects are open now. 24 Stonehouse Street is still offering training and is still doing some remarkable work. Our charity shops did close due to the second lockdown, but are re-opening on Thursday 3rd December.

As for Torbay, Grow is open which is great and the hostel is still doing some incredible work, as is the Housing First team who are supporting people not only in the hostel but certainly those people living in their own accommodation and in some cases, people who are still sleeping on the streets. Endeavour House had to temporarily shut during the second lockdown but again will be re-opening hopefully, the first week in December.

Clearly, this year has been very difficult for us organisationally, for many reasons, but also financially. Many of the fundraising events that we hold throughout the year to support the work of Shekinah had to be cancelled. So, I would beg people to get involved in this year’s Christmas campaign. I appreciate that this year has been very difficult for lots of people financially who have lost their jobs or been on furlough, but I again would just like to beg that if you have any change or any money that you wish to donate to Shekinah, please do. I can tell you from those that use Shekinah’s services, it would be greatly appreciated.  

As for 2021, well, what will that bring? I think for many of us at Shekinah the lessons that we’ve learnt during the Covid period has shown us that we can do things differently and, in some cases, far more effectively. If you’re going to ask if we are going to go back to pre-Covid where we had a Drop-in Centre full of 30-40 people every day and lots of people on the streets, absolutely not. We do not want to return to that. We recognise that things can be different, and things should be different. We have to hold on to what we have learnt, what we must not do is forget.

For us, 2021 will bring in opportunities for Shekinah to look at the way it delivers services and make changes. Some of our projects are already talking about changing their approach, in some cases, changing the way people can access a service and the way that we can provide support. Whilst we have had a very difficult 2020, I think 2021 could be quite an exciting year for us.

But none of this work can be done without your support. So again, I would just like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the donations that you’ve given to us over the course of the year and look forward to your continued support throughout 2021.

John Hamblin

Chief Executive Shekinah

December 2020