There was much publicity about the government’s call to ‘get everybody in’ in March last year. The Pathways service in Norwich, a partnership between six organisations in the homelessness sector, (St Martins, The Feed, The Salvation Army, Futures, Shelter and YMCA Norfolk) commissioned by Norwich City Council, has continued to ensure that in Norwich we ‘keep everyone in’ and no one needs to resort to sleeping on the streets.
By working closely together, Pathways agencies together with the city council, have been able to pool funding, resources and expertise to provide support to those that most need it, respond quickly to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, well as usual pressures such as winter weather. Providing accommodation during the winter is always a challenge, but there is now the added pressure of ensuring cold weather provision is also Covid-safe.
Hotel accommodation has been used to provide a winter night shelter in the city and a crucial part of its success has been support worker time to ensure people move on to secure accommodation and do not return to the streets. Team members from both St Martins, Pathways Norwich and Norwich City Council have volunteered their time to support this initiative for the winter period, including bank holidays over Christmas and the new year.
The bed spaces, at two hotels in the city, have been funded by St Martins, the Norfolk Community Foundation and local and central government. The collaborative nature of Pathways has meant that support has been available to meet each person’s needs, with plans for follow-on accommodation put in place from the outset. Since November, 40 people have accessed the winter shelter or emergency accommodation provided via Severe Weather Emergency Provision (SWEP), with 15 now in more settled housing.
Maria Pratt, Director of Homeless Services, for St Martins said, “We have no doubt that this provision saves lives, both during the cold weather and the challenges posed by the pandemic. Each person is given a clean, warm and private space alongside specialised support to address the reasons for their homelessness. We are seeing smooth transitions out of the hotels and into longer term accommodation.”
Councillor Kevin Maguire, Norwich City Council cabinet member for rough sleeping, said: “It’s fantastic to see how Pathways agencies have come together to offer wrap around support to rough sleepers during this incredibly difficult time, including daily outreach sessions – exactly how we intended when we commissioned the partnership.
“With the city being so empty at the moment, it may make the number of rough sleepers seem more prominent. However, current rough sleeper numbers are very low at around 3 to 5. There are daily multi agency meetings led by council staff which look to accommodate people and assess their particular need as soon as they’re identified as being at risk – the winter night shelter has played a vital part in this provision.”
The Feed is one of the Pathways partners that has provided food to people in hotels and hostel accommodation during the first period of lockdown. A community fridge has since been established at the charity’s premises on Prince of Wales Road which offers free, nutritious food as well as support and signposting to other services.
The Salvation Army’s Pottergate Arc is also part of the Pathways consortium and has radically transformed its services to ensure homeless people get the help they need despite coronavirus restrictions. The team of specialist support workers has been a lifeline, especially during Christmas and periods of national lockdown. Alongside offering a warm and dry space, a listening ear, practical advice and compassionate advocacy, The Salvation Army provides hot food and drink as well as essential access to toilets and washing facilities.