A Derbyshire social landlord says that many of its residents are facing a huge challenge to keep their heads above water because the coronavirus lockdown has stopped them from accessing vital services they rely on to keep themselves safe.
The Derventio Housing Trust says that the hundreds of former homeless people living in its accommodation are at risk of experiencing mental difficulties, going without food, suffering physical violence or abuse and unwittingly taking drug overdoses because of the disruption the lockdown it has caused to their lives.
The Trust, which has 200 residents in the city and 400 in accommodation elsewhere across the Midlands and in the South-West, has launched an emergency Covid-19 appeal to help pay for a number of new schemes it has put in place to ease the pressure.
They include delivering food care parcels for residents who are unable to go shopping, buying mobile phones so that staff can keep in touch with residents who are confined to their homes and even printing 750 distraction packs – consisting of puzzles, activities and welfare advice.
Although the Trust, which is based in Boyer Street, Derby, offers a roof over its residents’ heads – many of whom have spent years sleeping on the streets and experienced mental health, drug and alcohol addiction and domestic abuse – it is well-known for the work it does to help them rebuild their lives.
This includes offering employability training, mentoring and running activity centres and courses where residents can learn new skills, get support and health advice and spend time with other people.
The social distancing rules have meant that the majority of its projects are closed and all face-to-face contact has been stopped, with staff reduced to carrying out regular welfare checks over the phone.
Jackie Carpenter, assistant director of Derventio Housing Trust, said that while this is adequate for many people, it is far from ideal for those vulnerable residents who rely more heavily on the support and care they receive from the organisation.
It means that staff are having to do more to safeguard their mental and physical welfare by dropping off food parcels, helping to sort out disputes or bullying in the shared accommodation and posting or delivering their printed distraction packs.
She said: “Everyone knows how the coronavirus is having a heavy impact on the physical, mental and financial health of the nation, but for many of the people we work with, the effects of the lockdown are potentially catastrophic.
“Not only are many of them missing the social contact that they get from our face-to-face work, they may be feeling socially isolated at home and many who rely on us for giving them hot food may not be eating anywhere near enough.
“The majority of residents have mental health issues, others who are drug dependent may be forced to buy more dangerous alternatives because there is a shortage at the moment, while we have also had to deal with issues of bullying and insufficient social distancing in our properties.
“In order to continue all of that work, we are having to spend extra money on additional resources, supplies and staffing costs, which is why we have launched our emergency Covid-19 fund.
“We have had a quite a few donations already and we’re really humbled by that, but as the lockdown continues, there is an ongoing need for funding, so we are hoping that more donors will come forward to help us continue our work.”
To donate money to Derventio Housing Trust’s Emergency Covid-19 Appeal, visit https://localgiving.org/appeal/derventiocovid-19/