The COVID-19 pandemic has put vulnerable people at even greater risk of poverty and homelessness. In response, the not-for-profit arm of Caridon Group, Caridon Foundation, together with Caridon Property, have pulled their resources together, not only to continue maintaining existing essential services, but to deliver vital additional help to those in need.
On 27 March, the Government gave councils 48 hours to find emergency accommodation for all rough sleepers in England. Staff at Caridon Property worked around the clock to help local authorities in South London fulfil their emergency housing needs.
In conjunction, the services provided by Caridon Foundation, which offers housing related support to tenants that are deemed vulnerable within the community, have become even more critical during the pandemic. Caridon’s COVID-19 Crisis Team have been working to identify the most vulnerable new and existing tenants to ensure they have access to the support they need.
Team Leader, Jane White said: “Although our offices remain closed, our dedicated staff have quickly adapted to working from home. They are going above and beyond the call of duty, working outside their normal hours, to assist people throughout this period of uncertainty and ensure they have access to food, medication and other essential items.
“Ordinarily, our core role is supporting tenants with managing their tenancies, money management and avoiding eviction, but right now basic needs such as access to food, medical supplies and mental health support are our prime focus.”
Caridon’s COVID-19 Crisis Team has:
- Implemented virtual viewings so Caridon can continue to house people, prioritising rough sleepers, those fleeing domestic violence or in B&Bs. Tenancies are signed virtually, housing benefits are set up online and key boxes are also being installed so that tenants can move straight in without any person-to-person contact.
- Implemented a rota to enable their Housing Support Officers (HSOs) to provide support to their most vulnerable clients at any time via phone or email.
- Connected with a food warehouse in Thornton Heath to collect fresh and non-perishable food to make hampers.These are being delivered to tenants who are self-isolating.
- Worked over Easter Weekend to distribute food bank donations to the vulnerable in Harlow and Crawley and put Easter eggs outside all of the doors in one of Caridon’s buildings where children live
- Sent Tesco vouchers via text and WhatsApp to tenants who are on low income and struggling to buy food
- Provided free electricity top-ups for tenants on low income
- Made one-off ‘awards’ to tenants who are socially isolated and do not have access to items such a television or radio. The awards are to purchase electrical items, including dongles for tenants who are currently at college, so that they can continue their studies from home.
- Arranged a team of volunteers to assist tenants who are self-isolating or in the ‘at risk’ groups (due to their age, disability or due to severe anxiety) by delivering much needed food and other necessities
- Increased the hours of their psychotherapist, Earl, from one to two days per week and extended talking therapies to tenants in Harlow and Brent, via phone, skype and WhatsApp
- Sent fitness packs including resistance bands, skipping ropes and pedometers to Caridon Foundation Eagles (a football team made up of Caridon tenants) and is running weekly ‘fitness sessions’ to keep them active, socially included and to help their mental wellbeing until they can once again collaborate with Crystal Palace and the Palace for Life Foundation.
- Applied for five grant applications to raise additional funds to assist tenants during COVID-19
With further funding, Caridon Foundation hopes to be able to keep providing the additional services they have implemented for at least another month, with the long-term view of linking as many tenants into long-term support and more permanent housing options as possible.
Commenting on the generosity, support and team spirit in the face of adversity, Jane White added: “Last week we received a call about a person in Croydon sleeping rough. Because of the system we have in place, we contacted him and arranged accommodation the very same day, as well as providing a gift voucher to help set him up with basic supplies. When we asked if there was anything he was missing, he just said it was very quiet. That day, one of our team donated a television to him. I received the most wonderful text saying – This is amazing. Now I can start my life again.”