Worthing Community Hub
Worthing Community Hub Manager describes how Covid has impacted upon our community.
Turning Tides’ Community Hub in Worthing has never experienced anything like the increasing demand for support received over the last year. Enquiries have been flooding in from concerned local people who have nowhere else to turn.
I have worked at the Community Hub for about two and a half years and I am passionate about supporting everyone on their journey out of homelessness. This last year Covid has turned all of our lives upside down. Working in the Community Hub I have witnessed first-hand how Covid has literally ripped apart the lives of so many people within our community, from all sorts of backgrounds.
The work we do at the Hub has become a lot more complicated during the pandemic, most notably we are receiving vast numbers of phone calls from people terrified about the possibility of having to sleep rough. Particularly at the beginning of the first lockdown, many had been ‘sofa-surfing’ with family or friends and then found they could no longer stay there. Temporary arrangements were breaking down because sometimes there was a vulnerable individual in the household which meant others could not stay or the space was no longer available with everyone living at home 24/7. Some just couldn’t afford to feed an additional mouth indefinitely.
For so many in our community a secure and stable place to live is no longer possible and they are truly distraught – facing homelessness for the first time. We are incredibly understanding and no judgements are made because we know only too well that anyone can become homeless – we are seeing people of all ages and from all walks of life, recently we have been supporting a former pilot for example.
The way we run the Hub has had to drastically change too. Our keyworkers have a lot more work to do to ensure everything is Covid safe. We have all taken huge risks with our own health to keep this vital frontline service running – but we’ve never been needed more.
With Covid restrictions we cannot have more than two clients in at a time – before, every morning we would have around 25 people in, eating a hot cooked breakfast, chatting, and receiving support in a warm and safe environment. Now we have people standing outside often waiting in the freezing cold. We can offer them a warm sandwich, a warm drink whilst they wait. It is especially unpleasant on a wet and windy day when you know some have been sleeping outside all night. Everyone who comes to us respects why we have had to put these limitations in place but it is heartbreaking – we don’t feel like we can do enough right now.
Despite all these hurdles, we always make sure that everyone who walks through the door gets the dedicated time and support they need and deserve. The relief is obvious when we are able to finally let someone in and they can warm up, have a shower, get a change of clothes and have a one-to-one chat with our keyworkers.
The Hub is a critical place for information – we link individuals with the council, health services, GPs and dentists, and the outreach team. We will often assist with accessing online forms, applications, completing paperwork, and if necessary accompany them to appointments.
Experiencing homelessness is never easy, it is a very isolating experience but with Covid it feels different, worse. There is less hope – people are less likely to find a job, cannot use the Hub to socialise with others who know how it feels to be homeless, cannot visit family or friends. We are noticing that for some, their mental health is really deteriorating.
To support with wellbeing, we run a range of virtual groups for those who have felt increasingly isolated during lockdown. We run digital IT groups, cooking classes, music and art groups and many more. Not only are they a truly valuable source of companionship and support but many are practical and engaging to overcome the challenges faced at this time which can be so detrimental to wellbeing.
Many of our clients have received digital equipment to ensure they have access to friends and family and the outside world during this pandemic. We are also increasing our befriending service where clients are matched with volunteers who provide a listening ear and support.
Despite the restrictions Covid has imposed, our Community Hub is still the only source of support for many. We are the place that offers someone with nothing – something. If the Hub wasn’t here, I think life would be unbearable for many.
Beyond the physical and emotional support offered at the Community Hub, it is also, for everyone, a place of possibility. The men and women we support experience the kindness and generosity of people they have never met – local people who have helped to fund the Hub through their generous donations. Many often express their appreciation and say they feel better for knowing their community cares.
Our services have never been in more demand and without the support of our local community we would not be able to reach out to local people who are genuinely going through what is most probably the worst time of their lives.
I do worry for what is to come in our community. As lockdown restrictions begin to lift, many will have the good fortune to return to some sort of normality. But for others, the crisis has just begun – I fear we will continue to be inundated to provide advice and support, for a long time to come. Whenever I see another store close in town, I know the knock on effect that will have on local livelihoods and I worry about the impact this increase in demand will have on our services.
I firmly believe that community is the solution to ending local homelessness and for as long as we have the generous support from our community, we will continue to offer hope to so many who have nowhere else to turn.
Please consider making an urgent donation to the ‘Crisis in our Community’ Appeal
Find out more information about our Crisis in our Community Appeal