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Services for people who have been sleeping rough through the coronavirus pandemic

March 24, 2020

We have been working hard for the last few weeks, with partners to make sure that every person who is sleeping rough in our community has a safe place to be, in whatever the coming weeks throw at us. Many of those who sleep on the streets will be extremely vulnerable to complications from the Coronavirus due to underlying health conditions.

It is really important to point out that what has been achieved is through a collective effort and most notably, our absolutely brilliant colleagues at Shropshire Council led by Laura Fisher, Service Manager – Housing and Occupational Therapy. Only a few days after the floods and all the misery that was unleashed on vulnerable people and property, (including our own premises), we were in conversation with Laura about this next crisis, exhausted from the previous weeks, her reply was “We’ll get this sorted!”.

The challenge of finding accommodation for so many people with very specific needs should not be underestimated, but our wonderful town/county pulled together. Tim Compton, (Yes, that is Tim our former manager who now works for Shropshire Council) spoke with Mike Matthews, Owner of The Prince Rupert Hotel which resulted in several rooms being made available. Mike has been a long-time champion of our work, he is Chair of the Shrewsbury Business Improvement District (BID) and has always acted with compassion and proactive support.

During the course of the last week we have begun the process of checking all our clients into the hotel. This isn’t an easy task and our Day Centre and Outreach teams (which includes Shropshire Council colleagues) have had to work very gently and sensitively to encourage them into what is quite an alien environment. We are also very grateful to Charlie, the Manager at The Prince Rupert Hotel who has worked with incredible humility to ensure everyone is welcomed as any other guest would be. One of our client’s was shown to their room by Becki the Reservations Manager and both were in tears, sharing together the enormity of what is happening.

Many of our clients have complex needs and although it might seem logical that they would all be delighted to be in this lovely hotel accommodation, it's not that straight forward. In fact on the first night one of the guys went out in the middle of the night and slept back on the street! The response to this from the hotel receptionist was beautiful, she wrote him a letter to tell him how welcome he is in their hotel!

Speaking of our clients, they have been amazing, for many of  them  the rapid changes in society is frightening and unnerving but they have responded by actively supporting each other, encouraging good hand hygiene and coughing etiquette, most notably when they performed Adam Ant’s Prince Charming to demonstrate coughing into the crux of the elbow.

We have carried out risk assessments, put infection control measures in place and will now be operating from the hotel. We have security in place and a rota with Shropshire Council providing daily support (7 days a week). We are operating at full capacity and like everyone else, we may face staffing issues due to illness, self-isolation etc, but we are as prepared as we possibly can be. That said, we have reserved space for the last couple of people we are still trying to encourage into a safe place.

This has been achieved through a remarkable collaborative of which we are proud to be just one partner of many:

  • Shropshire Council

  • The Prince Rupert Hotel

  • Shrewsbury Town Council

  • Shrewsbury Police

  • Our volunteers

  • Our clients

  • The Shrewsbury Food Hub

  • The Convent, Shrewsbury

  • Taybar Security

  • Shrewsbury BID

  • And you! Our wonderful supporters, thank you.

None of what is happening is easy, but when we act together with a common purpose we are strong

Thank you also to every hero who is listening to the national advice and staying at home, by doing this you are keeping us safe so we can care for vulnerable people.

Thank you 

From Karen Higgins, Chair of Shrewsbury Ark

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