Birmingham shelter, Tabor House, has continued to support people experiencing homelessness despite being forced to close because of COVID-19. And it is now supporting more people than ever.
The shelter’s open-plan accommodation has always been one of its strengths, enabling staff and volunteers to watch over guests at night. Many people who stay at the shelter say they value the security this gives them after being on the streets. However, in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak it meant they couldn’t comply with social distancing rules.
When it looked like the shelter would have to close, Birmingham City Council stepped in and offered them accommodation at a nearby hotel. This means guests can self-isolate in private rooms and Tabor House staff can continue to work with them safely.
The Tabor team have also started working with other homeless people who are being accommodated at the hotel. They are offering the same holistic and personalised support that guests receive at Tabor House. This strength-based approach looks at peoples’ aims and ambitions and finds a way to help them achieve these by building on their strengths.
One guest, Sam, said, “I have received the best support I have had in five years. I’ve done better here than anywhere else.”
Tabor House staff Lisa Hoftijzer, Ben Rafiqi, and project manager Sharon Fear are working full time to run the support service at the hotel. With the support of additional staff provided by the council, they are working with more than 50 people.
Another guest said, “The service is the best thing to come out of the COVID crisis. You have helped me so much.”
They are supporting all guests to claim relevant benefits and find appropriate accommodation for the future. They are aiming to help each guest find somewhere to move to as they are unsure how long the accommodation at the hotel will be available.
Guests are coping well with the move to the hotel, where they are well supported by the hotel staff. Christy Acton, Deputy Community Projects Manager at Father Hudson’s Care, said, “The staff at the hotel have been fantastic and really supportive to our staff team and our guests. The guests are okay. Living by yourself is lonely, but everyone is safe.”
Birmingham Mayor, Councillor Mohammed Azim, wrote to Tabor House to thank the team for their hard work. He described them as being “instrumental in the provision of support to over 50 homeless people throughout this time.”
Cllr Azim continued: “Please accept my heartfelt thanks to you and all your team. You truly are heroes in these very challenging times.”
The team aims to re-open Tabor House as soon as it is safe to do so. Until then, they are continuing to support each guest in their care to rebuild and move on.
Tabor House is a partnership project run by the iShelter management committee. It supports people experiencing homelessness to move away from the streets.
For more information visit www.ishelter.org.uk.