This month has seen some of the projects making their final adjustments, prior to fully reopening. This now means that all of Shekinah’s projects are fully operational, albeit with some restrictions on numbers of people allowed into premises. It is remarkable to think that this is over 12 months from the first lockdown and my thanks goes to all of the staff and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to get us back up and running. I know I have mentioned it before, but I cannot emphasise enough how important having access to face-to-face support is for many of the people who come to Shekinah. Modern technology certainly has its place, and we will continue to make good use of it going forward, but you cannot beat that face-to-face human contact which all of us have cried out for during the last 12 months.

Operationally, great work continues in both Plymouth and Torbay and whilst the number of people sleeping rough are relatively low, we are all very fearful for the next 6 months. Some of you may be aware that there has been a ban on evictions, but with this ending soon we are aware there are large backlogs in the Court system awaiting hearings. If you combine this with the total lack of affordable accommodation, many of feel these are all the key ingredients for a perfect storm. I am hoping that over the coming months and years, Shekinah will invest more time and resources in securing access to affordable accommodation. As we all know having a place to call home and a front door to shut and feel safe behind, should be central to our work.

Shekinah’s work with the Plymouth Alliance continues and some great work has been undertaken over the last few months. The Alliance, via Government money has invested in some sleeping pods which are located at Hamoaze House. Whilst only temporary solutions, this has certainly contributed to the continuing low numbers of people sleeping rough in Plymouth. The Alliance is also hoping that these will become a 12 months offer as appose to our traditional “winter provision” offer. Whilst a great provision, we must not become complacent and remember that this provision is only an extension of a temporary solution, and as previously mentioned, what we need are permanent homes for people.

A final thought I would like to leave you with, follows a conversation I had with someone who uses Shekinah. When talking about the last 12 months, I asked him what impact the pandemic had had on him. He said “For the first time in a long time it made me think about what’s important. All the people dying and lots of people really scared, made me realise I am no different to anyone else. I have been really worried about dying alone and how important my family is.”

Whist it is easy to label people who access services based on what we see as their problem, we must remember that all of the people we support have exactly the same feeling and fears as us, maybe we all need to think about that a bit more.

John Hamblin
Chief Executive Shekinah