April 17th – 2020
There is no doubt that COVID-19 is having a significant impact on the young people and families that we work with. We have seen a huge increase in demand for our services and are currently looking at ways to address that need.
Family relationship breakdown is the most common cause of youth homelessness. Families already at breaking point are experiencing immense pressure under lockdown, added stress about jobs and money, childcare, lack of space and social activities as well as general anxiety relating to the virus outbreak.
Most of the young people we support are without employment, savings or parents who can help them financially. When they present as homeless, they have reached crisis point. We have adapted our provision to ensure ALL our main services continue to function – even if now only possible remotely in order to protect the health of all involved.
Home visits have been suspended unless in an emergency, but clients are being contacted daily, with video calling offered, to make sure no young person is left feeling isolated. Some of our young people are struggling mentally at the moment and/or looking to relieve the boredom of self-isolation so we have put together a ‘Be better’ resource with tips and advice on wellbeing and personal development.
After this, the focus has been on maximising finances – reviewing income, signposting to financial support if things have changed, reducing or delaying bills where possible and arranging an emergency food parcel if needed.
Thanks to extra staffing and financial resource, our supported accommodation properties remain fully operational and at capacity, enforcing social distancing and sustaining an enhanced cleaning regime. The young people are more reliant on us than ever to support and care for them at this difficult time and our frontline team are working extremely hard in very challenging circumstances to keep morale up.
Ordinarily expected to be in employment, study or voluntary work, residents are being encouraged to maintain a positive daily routine and keep mind and body active. Communal living means they can still benefit from one another’s company and enjoy a range of activities (vegetable gardening, cookery, movie nights, games, exercise) while still maintaining social distancing. Several local companies have made generous food donations recently which have been very well received and have helped stretch limited finances that bit further.
Mediation and Family Intervention
Prevention, Mediation and Intervention is being provided by phone and/or Zoom video conferencing to all families at risk of breakdown, on a day to day basis. Over the last month, the team has been working with more families than ever before, and much more intensely, even providing out of hours online chat and text support to ensure more families are kept together. On a positive note, some families have really benefited from spending more time together and the service has received many messages of thanks for the guidance provided.
Key 2 Life Food Bank
Despite the pandemic, our KEY2Life Food Bank, the longest running foodbank in South Tyneside, remains open EVERY weekday 10am-4pm, thanks to our stalwart team of volunteers and the unsurpassed generosity of those donating both food items and financially.
We have seen an unparalleled increase in demand during lockdown – the number of food parcels given out has increased by 110% this month – as many already on low incomes are now suffering job losses and huge delays in accessing universal credit leaving them struggling to put food on the table.
School closures and holidays have added to the pressure at home, with extra mouths to feed during the day, so we are pleased to announce, with the support of Feeding Britain, the launch of a new ‘Feeding Our Families’ initiative. Households with children under the age of 16 can now self-refer for a families’ essential parcel – there will be a limited number, but we will endeavour to make one pack available once a week throughout the crisis to families in need and this will be in addition to our usual provision.
Despite a fantastic response to our appeal we are still desperate for donations to keep the food bank restocked. You can drop-off urgently needed food donations to Boldon Lane Library; our supermarket donation points; OR, if you’re in a position to, you can make a financial donation below.
Finally, we have been overwhelmed by the caring response from our local community during this unprecedented time, by the generosity shown towards the most vulnerable within South Tyneside and your kind messages of support.