Lockdown in Jimmy's Houses


Sarah Colwell

Working with those people that are living in our move on houses is very dependant on social contact and support – weekly catch up visits, either they to us or us checking in on them. Accompanying them to doctors, jobcentre, or even just a shopping trip, is a big part of our roles as Housing Support Workers.

To say the last few months of lockdown, social distancing and reliance on the telephone has been challenging would be an understatement. Without regular face to face contact, subtle changes can be missed and the stress that our residents have found themselves under has not been easy. For all of us it has been a difficult time; but for those who are already in a vulnerable position, it has been extra hard.

*Kyle moved into one of move on houses last May, having fled violence from his hometown outside Cambridge. It took him several months to feel safe enough to open up to me about his life and concerns, but late last year he confided that he loved drawing and gardening. After some coaxing and with the help of a Street Aid grant, I managed to persuade him to enrol on an evening Art course, which had just started when the dreaded ‘Stay In’ instructions came. This was not easy for either of us to cope with. Lengthy phone calls ensued and thanks to a donation of art materials from an anonymous benefactor, Kyle decided not to let the lack of classes stop him from exploring his passion and he has continued to draw and paint; now looking forward to returning to the class soon.

Other concerns have included being unable to visit parents or friends -social contact which may have just tentatively restarted and which had been worked had at was at the risk of being destroyed or set back; isolation and the possibility of relapse when all alone, and just the extra time to think and maybe return to those dark times which some of our residents had managed to escape from.

All of us have struggled with having had to step through these extraordinary times – and our challenges have of course, also included keeping people in! Luckily, we have had only a few instances where we’ve had to explain why and the majority of residents have understood the reasons. Understanding and complying though, as for many of us, doesn’t take away the fear and stress which can, in some cases have long and life changing consequences.

As we crawl our way back out of the weird fog of lockdown, it has been wonderful to be able to have ‘garden meetings’ with the residents again – we can begin to restart our face to face work hopefully relatively unscathed and looking again to a brighter future for them all.