Notes from our Manager Wendy Faulkner
Well this has been an eventful, stressful and pretty scary year so far, but thanks to our amazing staff, trustees and volunteers we have been able to make such an impact and a real difference to the lives of so many in these unprecedented times.
When the pandemic took hold, I am sure most of you followed our success supporting those who were sleeping on the streets of Shrewsbury into hotel accommodation. As most of our clients were housed in the Prince Rupert Hotel, we worked tirelessly with the hotel, Shropshire County Council & partner agencies, to help keep them safe.
It was crucial that we worked hard to prevent the virus entering the hotel. We planned and implemented strict risk assessments & protocols. Our clients helped with the cleaning, reminding people to adhere to the hygiene rules and we had a few giggles along the way – like singing Prince Charming into our elbows when we coughed!
Our work in the Prince Rupert was recognised by Public Health England and Dame Louise Casey, who praised us for our excellent working practice and our protocols were shared across the UK, as examples of good practice.
Our clients needed so much more than just a roof over their heads and 3 meals a day. Where required they were encouraged to register with drug and alcohol services and Riverside Medical Practice. We were supported by SRP & were able to offer a needle exchange and naloxone kits, in case we had to go into complete lockdown.
Hotel staff were given access to training and residents were provided with phones and tablets funded through a grant from Crisis. Throughout the pandemic the Shrewsbury Food Hub has provided a significant amount of food & Wenlock Spring has delivered bottled water to the Prince Rupert .
The Ark has purchased additional food, as well as PPE, thermometers and hand sanitiser. Everyone received a welcome pack with toiletries and clean clothes. provided by generous donations from the public.
As always, our local police have acted with consideration and care in their approach to those we support. Understanding the complex needs of our vulnerable clients and how this impacts on their responses, behaviour and decision making, especially in times of crisis, has been crucial.
True to form our volunteers have been amazing, keeping in touch with people living both inside and outside the hotel by phone and internet. Alerting our staff if they had any concerns or if someone needed a food parcel or their gas or electric topping up (we support vulnerable people in accommodation, as well as those living on the streets.)
We had a real boost in June when our Volunteers received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest accolade volunteers in the UK can receive and was awarded in recognition of their tireless work to support and care for the most vulnerable members of our community .
We also suffered a devastating blow when we lost our dear friend Kyle. We were supporting him daily in accommodation and when we were able to open the allotment again, Kyle worked tirelessly, digging and planting in the sunshine. Kyle’s memory will live on through the allotment and everyone hopes to fulfil his dream of supplying fruit and vegetables to Palmers and the Ark from there.
As lock down restrictions have been lifted, we have seen several clients return to the streets and I have made the decision to scale down our on-site support at the Prince Rupert, in order to prioritise the wellbeing of our rough sleepers. We continue to support those living in the hotels, with daily check-ins, but are back working from our day centre, opposite the station once again.
So what now? Currently, our tiny premises can safely allow in 2 clients at a time and we have had to prioritise those who are sleeping out. It is working well & is vital for our clients to be able to use the kitchen, bathroom and washing facilities, things that most of us take for granted.
Last week we supported someone to attend a virtual funeral - no two days are ever the same!
We recently opened our medical room. Working in partnership with the CCG, Riverside Medical Practice, Dr Sarah Harwood and Dr Nicola Roberts. The first day of appointments were well attended and it will make such a difference to our clients.
We continue to offer a safe space to relax, to talk and be heard and at times to vent frustrations and cry. Hot food, clean clothes, access to a phone and computer and support to stay in touch with crucial services such as Drug and Alcohol Services, Mental Health Team, Probation etc
In addition we have been able to raise funds to increase our outreach and support services. When they’re ready, our clients can now receive counselling support from : SALUTE Crane Counselling or Carla Boulton Counselling services .
For several years, the trustees have been searching for alternative premises for the Day Centre, as it has not been ‘fit for purpose’ for some time. Pre – COVID we could see up to 36 individuals visit our tiny space in a single day.
Seeing so many of our long-term rough sleepers benefitting from accommodation during lockdown, we have also begun to think about the possibility of providing long-term housing for our most vulnerable clients. These conversations are ongoing and a lot depends on what is available in the area for us to move into.
In the interim we will continue to support our clients in any way we can. We hope to be able to get our podiatrists and hairdresser back into the Ark in the near future and are looking forward to getting our wellbeing activities back up and running in partnership with Shrewsbury Town in the Community.
We’ve also been missing our partner services who were working out of the Ark before lockdown: Shropshire Homes for All, Shropshire Housing Alliance and We Are With You – We miss you Kat, Emma and Stevie 😊
But more than anything we can’t wait to welcome all our volunteers back, working together to provide hot meals, support and kindness… fingers crossed that it won’t be too long now.
Finally, none of this could be achieved without our hardworking staff team: Rose Greenslade – Senior Support Worker, Eloise Arthur Hammond – Support Worker, Alan Stewart Door Person/ Support Worker and Ursula Howells our Administrator and Clerk to the Trustee’s.
Thank you all for the care, professionalism and dedication you have shown throughout the last few months. As lock down lifts, I can’t wait to see what this incredible team can achieve in the future.