Tackling Coronavirus Episode 4: Simon on the Streets

By Soo Lincoln, Temporary Communications Officer, Forum Central
This is the latest in a series of blog posts where Forum Central talk to local third sector organisations about how the Coronavirus outbreak has impacted upon them and the people they support.  

For this episode I contacted Natalie Moran CEO of Simon on the Streets, an independent charity delivering outreach and support to the homeless community in Leeds, Bradford and Kirklees. Simon on the Streets support people with high and complex needs who are often not in touch with any other services. 

Digital doesn’t work for everyone

Homeless people – especially street homeless – often have very limited access to media – or indeed none at all – meaning that health messages about Covid19 are hard to come by. Equally, shifting to digital or phone support was not a viable option for this client group. 

Simon on the streets addressed this immediately by increasing their outreach and focusing on communication – sharing key media messages about the pandemic, advice on how to stay safe and offering practical assistance.

© Sam Toolsie 2019
Moral Rights Asserted; This work may not be reproduced without the permission of Sam Toolsie.

However, with the rise in information, came an increase in anxiety and uncertainty and the outreach teams have been vigilant in offering reassurance, practical advice and the coordination of mental health support. 

Working together with Leeds Street Support Team and other specialist services Simon on the Streets are keeping in contact with many people who have been swiftly moved into hotels including women into their own gender specific temporary accommodation. 

Natalie was pleased to report that several women were able to be housed in women only accommodation 

‘’One of only two gender specific hotels in the country’’  

Opportunity in adversity

Relocation from the streets into hotels allows better social distancing as well as the opportunity for improved continuity of support which, prior to the pandemic, had not been possible. Indeed Natalie explained that they had been supporting people who they might not have seen under usual circumstances. 

Several people without recourse to public funds, often understandably mistrustful of services, have taken up the offer of support, given the serious health threat that was  suddenly present.  A group of people, previously in an encampment near the M621 have accepted emergency accommodation with LATCH, and this will enable them to be provided with legal advice, practical help and emotional support. 

‘’We would perhaps never had got the opportunity to engage with them otherwise’’  

Partnership work has been crucial to the response and Natalie praised the collaborative work that had ensured that assistance was delivered to many people  in very precarious circumstances. 

Funding – thinking creatively

Simon on the Streets is an independent organisation allowing them to act and adapt very swiftly and creatively. However, some of their usual fundraising activities such as The big Sleep out have been scuppered by the pandemic. To help the charity to become more sustainable, they are having their first virtual networking event this week and ‘5 for 5’ is asking local businesses to support the charity by donating £500 a year for a 5 year period. 

5 for 5 Networking event takes place on 6th August 

To attend email [email protected]

Simon on the Streets: Providing hope for those without a voice