Shelter Hub manager, Carly Whitehead, on how the Lancashire team faced the challenges posed by COVID-19.
‘What can I say? Undeniably this year has been full of challenges, heartache and hardship. I look back to the 13 March, driving into work, not knowing that was the day that would change our service, not forever but for a very long time to come.
How did our service change and how did we support people?
There is absolutely no comparison to those on the front line, our NHS heroes, our Care Workers and Emergency Services. The pandemic has seen part of our service adapt to remote working, which has enabled us to support people over the telephone and online.
We have used our digital platforms in the most creative ways. The use of conference call has meant that we can still support those difficult conversations. For many, just knowing someone is there, that someone is on your side makes all the difference. Providing not just a phoneline for people needing help, but in many cases a lifeline.
I say a lifeline, because I reflect on the work of our team and hear them supporting someone who just wants to end it all. I listen to the feedback which says ‘I am only alive because of the help I have received from Shelter’.
At Shelter Lancashire we have received 9200 phone calls since that day
I wish I could say that reaches everyone, but I know it doesn’t. What about those people without a phone? What about those people without digital access?
Well, for those people, we resorted to the great outdoors. We have a base in the library building, which is well-established in the community. We knew that people would still need to access support who couldn’t reach us in any other way, but they knew where the library building was. I recall a person who had been to many places trying to get help; they had nowhere to live and no phone. Understandably, people would question, where do you go in a global pandemic with nowhere to live?
I am incredibly thankful that person found us, and I am so happy that we were there. The team supported that person outside of the library. It took one phone call to our Local Authority, and within minutes that person had somewhere to stay and was on the road to finding a home.
With such a close network of agencies, it’s possible for us to reach those that can’t get to the library, those that don’t have a phone.
Finally, I can’t write a post about this year without mentioning the team that made all of this possible. An inspiring bunch of people that have been committed to helping in any way they can. Video call has become our best friend, virtual coffee mornings are a huge highlight in the week, not to mention our resident poet who volunteers with us every week.
So after writing this blog, I will go back to the original question: how did we work through COVID-19?
We did it together, because there’s no other way.‘
Next: You might also be interested to read about how we designed our digital advice response to COVID-19.