This week's Front-line interview is with Alex, our Wellbeing Co-ordinator. Alex runs our Music and Men's groups which are communal, safe-spaces where people experiencing homelessness can learn essential coping skills, and share and reflect on their experiences.
During COVID-19, he is supporting 600 people with wellbeing packs and providing 50 people with 1:1, remote support, per week, to help them manage isolation and continue their personal development.
Life during COVID-19 is unsettling, and I wonder how that leaves our clients. I ask them, and they can’t explain it sometimes.
What I miss most about my work is being face-to-face with our clients and my colleagues.
Like everything, my role has changed. Currently, I am making lots of calls to our clients. Many go straight to voicemail because they go through phones quite quickly. If I get through to them, we talk about physical and mental wellbeing as health anxiety is a big deal, and, right now, fear is high. Many feel isolated and cut off from us as a service, and they are also unsettled. They ask questions like, "when we will open again?" and "how long will this last?" Questions I can’t answer. But I try to reassure, and they appreciate my honesty when I speak about my frustration and unsettledness. It helps validate their fear and confusion. There is a sense of togetherness during the pandemic, despite our different social standings.
For many of my clients, we are their only source of information about COVID-19. I talk with them about safety and identifying and managing the virus' symptoms. I find myself sounding like a government spokesperson at times, reiterating the lockdown and social distancing policy!
Though we have to socially distance to overcome the pandemic, I have to stay connected with my clients. Many of them would never have felt or been more disconnected. So I also make and send them wellbeing packs to help keep them occupied, and continuing to working on their Learning & Wellbeing. I don't want them to lose all the progress they have made. I want them to see this time as a period of growth, for everyone, because I firmly believe, one day, we will look back at this time and see how much our resilience has grown.
Working from home with a 4-month-old baby has its challenges. It is nice to be here with my family, but I can’t settle because it feels like there is so much to do. I'd rather be at work running a group or with our clients. I fluctuate between feeling quite helpless and then feeling like, at least, we are doing something important. But it doesn’t feel enough at times.
Most of all, I think about the clients a lot. Those that are housed are the lucky ones, but I wonder about those walking the streets alone. Homelessness and loneliness are an awful mix.
Right now, I am grateful to have a home, food, a job, and for my friends and family.
Providence Row is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company number 07452798 and registered charity number 1140192. Its registered office is at The Dellow Centre, 82 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7SA.