Every story of 2020 will now start in the same fashion “we were ticking over quite nicely, surviving and trying to make a difference, then from nowhere….bang! COVID-19 changed everything.”

Here at Target Housing, we work with homeless individuals who have multiple complex needs. Most often it’s drug and alcohol issues combined with an offending background to feed these addictions.

When lockdown started, the local authorities were quick to point out that we were an essential service. And that we must therefore continue to deliver face to face support. For the first time we realised: staff PPE was no longer just specialist gloves for handling sharps. Our staff needed much greater protection.

With none available from local authorities, we had to fight for PPE like everyone else. As it turned out, being a charity that had spent 30 years ducking and diving just to survive in normal times gave Target the resourcefulness to deal with the COVID-19 challenge. Whilst PPE supplies remained low, staff prioritised their clients. Those most in need were supported face to face whilst others were contacted by phone, at least daily. Where clients didn’t have a phone, Target bought one. We purchased over 50 phones for clients to ensure we could keep in touch.

Then, a breakthrough happened when a contact through SASC helped us source a regular supply of PPE. From that moment we were able to resume face to face working with all our clients. We learned our lesson. We now hold a minimum of three month’s supply of all PPE.

It is sometimes hard to accept that at this time of economic crisis we are growing; even harder when you realise, we are growing because so too is homelessness and hardship. Since April, across Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and Hull, we have worked with the most vulnerable groups. Rough sleepers, women fleeing domestic violence and homeless families. In more than 250 cases, we have been able to provide a package of support and stable accommodation.

In more than 250 cases, we have been able to provide a package of support and stable accommodation

It will be no surprise to say that in the early stages of the pandemic, we felt like we were wading upstream through treacle. Local authorities were unable to provide real guidance, just lots of verbal support. We didn’t know what to do; we just did it. Over the months we have developed systems of working that mean we continue to deliver support whilst keeping staff as safe as possible. Out of a staff team of 127 we have had less than 10 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Amongst our clients we have had similar very low numbers of cases. Long may this continue.

Shaun Needham CEO, Target Housing