Whilst I am a great believer in looking forward, as we start another year it is always good to reflect on the previous 12 months and what we have learnt. Clearly, despite all our processes and planning, none of us were ready for a worldwide pandemic. From my perspective, the biggest challenge has been balancing the safety of our staff and the people who use our services, against a clear need to continue offering face to face support.

Unsurprisingly, and in true Shekinah style, the staff were incredible; showing commitment and dedication way beyond what was asked of them. Despite their own anxieties, they continue to offer support to people who themselves, are highly anxious and fearful of the unknown. On reflection, what I have observed is that much of this work (albeit under strict guidelines) was able to continue because of the positive relationships staff had developed with people that access Shekinah's services.

I have always said that the world revolves around relationships and this was yet another great example of this belief. Another core belief and value at Shekinah, is that everyone deserves a place to call home and a front door that they can shut and feel safe behind. Despite some beliefs that people who sleep on the street do so because of a "lifestyle choice" this is not what the team at Shekinah observe.

People who have had long histories of rough sleeping were very keen to be accommodated and, in my view, wrongly grateful for the chance to get off the streets. I say ‘wrongly grateful’ as surely this is what we should be offering to everyone who desperately needs it and should be the foundation of what we do. As our Housing First team have shown; if you give someone a home, addressing some of the other issues that they face, whilst is still challenging, becomes less of a mountain to climb.

If we are to live in a world where rough sleeping becomes rare, brief, and non-recurring, we must continue to build on the work we have done over the last 12 months and prioritise giving people a home. That being said, without the ongoing appropriate support, we have also learnt that four walls and a TV do not entirely change people's lives. If people are to maintain better lives long-term, access to ongoing support and meaningful activity is necessary. This is an area that Shekinah will be focusing on and building upon what we currently offer. It certainly feels that now is the time to plan for the coming years and not forget or waste all that we have learnt over the past year.

John Hamblin 

Chief Executive Shekinah