How we've been supporting homeless people throughout lockdown
This year has been difficult for everyone, but our clients have been some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
When lockdown began, we worked around the clock to ensure everyone had somewhere safe to sleep. We've also been responding to a rise in rough sleeping brought about by coronavirus.
We've been there for people who were sofa surfing when the pandemic began and no longer had that option, and for people whose relationships broke down during lockdown leaving them with no choice but to sleep rough for the first time.
The team is still out there, working harder than ever to keep people safe, and to help them rebuild their lives and move into permanent homes.
As the economy moves into a recession, job losses are leaving people unable to pay rent and facing eviction. The mental health impacts of lockdown, employment uncertainty and worries about housing, heating and food are also having devastating consequences.
It's a serious situation but help is available for those who are struggling.
Damian's story: "Porchlight made me feel that I can get through this"
Porchlight have helped him overcome homelessness and exploitation.
Damian became homeless because he was a victim of modern slavery. We helped him escape the streets and rebuild his life.
After his relationship broke down, Damian was was forced to work for no pay by people who took advantage of his vulnerability.
“They offered me a job and somewhere to live. Months went by and they still hadn’t paid me… by the time I realised what was happening I had no money and felt stuck in the situation.”
Damian eventually escaped the situation, but with no money he was forced to sleep on the streets.
“It was cold and wet, and I got sick. I had no energy because I couldn’t eat properly and I became depressed. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to find another job, but my health was getting worse and without money to travel there was nothing I could do.”
Helping when no one else would
When your focus is on day-to-day survival, finding and accessing the right kind of support can feel extremely challenging.
Damian was struggling to get help and felt let down. A call to Porchlight’s helpline turned things around.
“When you’re homeless, you don’t know where to turn or who to speak to. That changed when Porchlight got involved and I met my support worker Paul.
"We met regularly and I could call or text at any time with questions I had. It made me feel that I could get through this.
“Paul found me a room in a local hostel. Having my own space with a hot shower and food felt brilliant. I could finally get into a regular sleeping routine and register with a doctor and dentist to sort out my health.”
A brighter future
Now Damian is back on his feet, he is looking to work again. Paul helped him gain funding for a construction qualification.
“I feel positive and excited for the future. I’m looking forward to working a 9 – 5 job again that will allow me to see my children at weekends.
“I’m planning to make a donation to Porchlight when I’m in the position to do so. I’ve seen first-hand the help and support they give. In a short space of time, they turned my life around.”
Mental health doesn’t need to be a barrier to gaining employment
Finding a job isn’t necessarily straight forward when you struggle with your mental health.
It’s why we support people like Andrew, who has struggled with mental health for much of his adult life. In the past, he has been experienced bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
When we first met Andrew, he was unemployed but keen to work again. If you’ve been out of work for a long time it can feel intimidating getting back into employment, especially if you feel that your mental health is holding you back.
Helping Andrew back into work
It’s why we helped Andrew apply for a permitted work certificate. The certificate allows people with a disability, illness or health condition to do part-time work without their benefits being affected.
With the certificate, Andrew was able to find a part-time job with the NHS, supporting people who similar experiences of mental ill health. We helped him negotiate working hours that did not feel too overwhelming.
“Working gave me a lot more self-esteem. I was able to put what I knew about mental health recovery into practice.”
As Andrew started his new job, we continued to support him. Because the transition to work is not always straight forward, we continue to provide mental health employment support.
“My Porchlight worker was giving me a lot of encouragement and moral support. They really wanted me to succeed.”