As we enter the summer months, its often very unusual for many people to think about those people who sleep on the streets as we often associate the hardship of rough sleeping with winter months. I am sure we can all agree that with the recent very high temperatures, it has been as dangerous for those people as any cold winter.  Shekinah along with PATH and the Soup Run has ensured that people have been getting access to lots of colds drinks and sun cream. We must all remember that very hot or very cold weather rough sleeping can have potentially life-threatening consequences for people. 

Sadly, after a dip in numbers of people on the streets, as expected we are starting to see a worrying rise in numbers. As furlough ends along with the temporary ban on evictions, we could be entering a very difficult period. That is not to say that all the agencies are not working hard to get people off the streets, but with spiralling costs of rent, accommodation options for many people are simply out of reach. This isn’t just a Plymouth or Torbay issue but is gradually becoming a national crisis. So what is the answer, quite simply we need to be building more social housing and until a political party develops a long-term housing strategy, many people will face a lifetime of moving around the temporary accommodation system, often living in settings that are in my view of an unacceptable standard. Shekinah is looking at options to develop homes for people and we hope that over the coming months we will be able to give you more information.

This month Wendy Chapman hit 25 years of service for Shekinah. I have had the privilege of working with Wendy for nearly 20 years. Wendy is the longest serving member of staff at Shekinah and has seen lots of changes during that time. She started working at Shekinah when we were based in the former night shelter which use to be on our current site in Bath St. During her time, she will have worked with hundreds if not thousands of people, many of whom received her support, often under very difficult circumstances. 

Having grown up in Stonehouse, Wendy was always the go to person if we needed information. Her knowledge of people and their stories earned her respect from both staff and people that used Shekinah's services. Never afraid to have difficult conversations with people, or to step in to break up fights, the one thing that has not changed with Wendy is her deep concern and care for people that come into Shekinah. Anyone who gives 25 years of service deserves recognition and thanks, so from all of us at Shekinah and all the people whose lives you have touched, thank you Wendy for all you have given. 

As we look forward to the coming months, Shekinah will continue to build upon the gradual unlocking process that we have all been going through. As previously mentioned, we have certainly found new ways of working which are proving to be far more effective and helpful for people using our services. So, for us there will be no "going back to the good old days" as I really do believe we are as an organisation more focussed now that we have ever been. If we really want to put an end to the injustice of rough sleeping, we must be far more intentional in our offer and most importantly really listen to what people are saying to us. 

John Hamblin

Chief Executive Shekinah