Communities can achieve more than any state or service response when they work together.
Ours used to be a traditional provider for supported housing for ‘homeless’ people. Over nine years Mayday has transformed itself into an influencer that is proving that changing our broken system is possible. We have shown that through our unique approach, that uses personalisation and asset-based ways of working, we can stop people being institutionalised.
Throughout the pandemic we have carried on providing accommodation in Westminster, Oxford and Northamptonshire, to people who prove daily the power of their resourcefulness and resilience.
A typical day
“Can you authorise payment for the electrician to stand in the Argos queue for two hours to buy a new CCTV’?
“How do we cope financially if we keep vacant rooms in our shared houses empty to minimise risk of infection for others living there?”
This is my typical day with unusual, never-heard-of-before requests from stretched frontline teams, to big strategic challenges threatening our very existence as a charity.
Each day is relentlessly busy, emotionally hard but interjected with heart-warming stories and tremendous insights. We didn’t need a six month focus group on how to work virtually, we organised that in the first week!
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected me
My father-in-law was taken to hospital with symptoms of Coronavirus and died within three days. The toll of not being together as a family, and attending the funeral was hard-surreal. But listening to people experiencing homelessness describe how the ‘new normal’ is their ‘usual normal’ has really made me reflect on how little I have walked in other people’s shoes.
“People say they are flipping because they’re trapped inside and the dishwasher breaking is the last straw. When I lost my family and was put into a house sharing with four guys who stole my milk and kept banging on my door, I had last straws everyday but no one listened.. I nearly got evicted for loosing it.
How do I deal with the challenges
We distributed phones, top up phone credits, laptops as people needed.
But Mayday is lucky as we have been led by the people we work for for years. Our ‘Asset Coaches’ are already connected with people virtually and through social media so they continue to be creative by hosting virtual coffee mornings, gaming, Facetime and Skype.
Overcoming the challenges of managing supported housing and dispersed properties has been a greater challenge, however, but we have seen how resourceful people living in our accommodation can be and how those who were previously perceived as needing support are volunteering and contributing to daily life.
What are my hopes for the future
There are two things that I am hoping we will learn from this experience of the virus. The first is that communities can achieve more than any state or service response when they work together. We must invest more in our communities.
The second is that people who were the receivers of multiple services are clearly demonstrating that, given the opportunity, they can do so much more for themselves or within the community. We must stop trapping people in services and give back control of their own lives.