Hatfield homeless charity worker describes moving in with guests for four months to care for them during lockdown
PUBLISHED: 11:29 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 16:58 27 October 2020
A Hatfield woman who works at a homeless charity has told this paper about her experience of volunteering to move in and live with her guests for four months during lockdown.
Sarah Jamieson chose to move out of her family home to live with eight guests who were being supported by homeless charity Resolve earlier this year.
Following the efforts of everyone involved, seven out of eight guests have been able to find accommodation, and one man who had been homeless for more than a decade was also able to find job.
Sarah told this paper about telling her family she was going to move out: “They didn’t take it seriously when I went, I think they thought it was a bit of a novelty.
“They suddenly realised it wasn’t fairies that did all the washing and all the cleaning and cooking. They did want me back – for the last two months they were ringing me every couple of days saying ‘Are you coming home yet?’”
Sarah decided she was going to move in to safeguard the guests as they had already made great progress and she didn’t want it to go to waste.
She was joined by several other people who also volunteered to help look after the eight clients, but they had to find a large enough accommodation.
“This venue wasn’t going to be big enough for us all, I think we would have all murdered each other probably,” said Sarah.
They were able to find a suitable accommodation with the help of WHBC’s housing team, who Sarah said went “over and above”. A spokeswoman said: “When COVID and the lockdown put the night shelter out of action, an alternative was needed. WHBC was able to use the Jim McDonald centre to ensure that none of the night shelter residents were left without accommodation, and the team at Resolve remained with them for the duration. The progress that has been made with that group is something that everyone involved should be proud of.”
Sarah said: “I’ll be really honest, I thought two weeks and some of them will abscond. I thought we could end up being in lockdown with a couple of people.
“Truth be told we kept them. We had five alcohol dependent guests and two drug dependent guests and they just took that opportunity to get clean and stay clean. It was incredible.
“They made it easy for us. I think the staff struggled with the situation far more than any of the guests did.
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“We were working 120 hours a week, the only time we weren’t at work was when we were asleep.
“Because we were with them for such an intense amount of time it also gave us an opportunity to do a lot more than we can normally do.”
One of the main challenges during the four month period was keeping everyone entertained and occupied. The manager at the Jim McDonald Centre mentioned that the sports hall needed painting, so the group painted the sports hall and helped maintain the garden. They even helped a nearby elderly resident, whose family couldn’t visit due to COVID-19, by looking after her garden too.
“It was important for us to give something back,” added Sarah.
They did a virtual bike ride from Land’s End to Jon O’Groats on a stationary bike to keep everyone entertained, and even visitors had to take part.
PC Ian Drury, PC Adam Haines and PCSO Deborah Akers, from the Welwyn Hatfield Safer Neighbourhood Team helped out by donating five bicycles.
PC Ian Drury said: “We have a great relationship with Resolve and regularly pop in to see them during our patrols in Hatfield Town Centre. The lockdown period was understandably tough for the guests and we made sure to check in on them as much as we could.
“We were given permission by our Chief Inspector to donate bikes that would have ended up going off to auction or charity. It was great to watch first-hand how the donation helped the guests of Resolve. Receiving the bikes really helped to break down the barriers between us and it meant that they could go out on bike rides with the staff, plus they could get to work more easily. Sarah and her team were amazing during lockdown, giving up their own lives to look after the guests 24 hours a day throughout lockdown. We’re happy that the donation was so warmly received and we hope the guests are still enjoying using their new bikes.”
Sarah even celebrated her birthday during lockdown – her family suprised her with a visit, the guests made her presents and a lemon drizzle cake, and she said it was “one of the best birthdays I’ve had”.
For Sarah the worst time was when her two-year-old grandson visited but didn’t understand why she wasn’t coming back with them.
Looking back on the time Sarah said: “At the time it seemed like it was going on forever, and now it’s seems like a blink of an eye.
“Living in there gave me a massive insight into the life of my guests. Having to live with those restrictions that we would impose as part of our shelter. Not being able to put the heating on when you want and things like that I’d never considered before, not being able to chose my own food, not being able go shopping. Those choices that I exercise every single day
The next project for Resolve is ReStart, which is Resolve’s new Homeless and Street Team and will provide a range of services including: targeted outreach support, investigating reports of people sleeping rough within the borough, providing assessment for access into housing and more.
Visit resolve-online.org/hatfield/ for more.
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