To say that the last 8 weeks have been difficult, would be a understatement. That said, in true Shekinah style the staff have stepped up to the challenge and it has been truly inspiring to watch. When talk of the lockdown first broke, we rapidly carried out lots of assessments with regards to which services we could keep open and which services would need to be temporarily closed. The result of this was that the charity shops, training projects in both Plymouth and Torbay, Shekinah Grow and fundraising would need to temporarily close. In total 27 staff were furloughed and as I write this we are looking at planning a safe way to bring some of these services back into operation.    

With these projects closed this left us with the Hostel, Housing First team, Tenancy Sustainment team, Lucy Evans covering the Probation work in Torbay, Make Amends team and the Drop-In Centre in Plymouth. Thanks to the commitment from the staff all of these projects have continued to deliver services, albeit having to make adjustments and utilising greater use of technology. 

As for the future, the simple answer is that we don’t know what the new world will look like. After speaking to staff and clients, what we are clear about is that none of us want to return to the way things were. We have a real opportunity to reset the way we deliver services and support people. Some of you may know that Plymouth via the Alliance secured two new houses, offering 26 beds for people that were either rough sleeping or in winter provision. Over a 6-day period some great work was carried out and the houses were opened and 26 people moved in. This meant that we were able to transfer the Drop-In Centre staff to the houses where they are still working supporting the people that live there. On a positive note, as I write this, our rough sleeper numbers are some of the lowest I have seen in Plymouth for a long time and this is something we must hold onto and celebrate. If this continues this will enable us to rethink about the role of the Drop-In Centre and place a greater focus on preventative work as opposed to the historical crisis management approach. I would love to see Bath Street become a vibrant place with a real purpose where we can still help those in crisis but also develop activities to help those that have been housed to remain in their accommodation.   

So whilst we have lots of challenges ahead such as making up for lost income from activities like our charity shops, I am very excited about the future. If any good can come out of this, we have to hold onto the incredible acts of kindness and compassion that I have witnessed. If we really want to try to end rough sleeping, this has to be a once in a lifetime opportunity to do so.   

John Hamblin   

Chief Executive Shekinah    

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