St Martins is a charity that runs a range of services for vulnerable and homeless people in Norwich, including emergency hostel accommodation, group homes, and residential care for individuals with complex needs with the aim of acting as a stepping stone to independent living.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the safety of homeless people and rough sleepers is more at risk than ever, and they need access to safe accommodation and support to enable them to socially distance, maintain hygiene and self-isolate if necessary.

The charity has seen more people on the streets during lockdown, often because sofa surfing arrangements have broken down.

The charity was awarded a grant from the Covid-19 Local Resilience Fund towards agency staff, critical hand washing stations and PPE to ensure services were protected against Coronavirus. Each site must maintain staffing levels in order to remain operational, and funding helped the charity to access bank staff to cover in the event of sickness, or staff needing to isolate.

“If we do not have enough staff, and in the worst case scenario, we have to close the accommodation.  This would have catastrophic consequences for the people we support and put them at immediate risk of infection, or spreading the virus by rough sleeping.”

Also care packages were provided for the homeless residents at various St Martins hostel sites. The essential care packages included mobile phone credit which was vital to ensure individuals were aware of latest developments and could contact St Martins or other services if should they develop any symptoms.

Some service users like Matthew were a fantastic role model to other residents due to his very diligent hand washing procedure, so much so that St Martins awarded Matthew a certificate of appreciation and treated him to a box of chocolates.

During these tough times, St Martins have really used their space effectively by providing fun and socially distanced games in the outdoor space at Webster Court. The Covid-19 situation has been very difficult for some, especially because some residents suffer from anxiety and found it unsettling as their usual routines were disrupted.