Homeless people in Colchester have been thrown a lifeline during the pandemic
Beacon House provides healthcare, counselling and other support services to those living on the streets or without permanent accommodation.
During the pandemic, many homeless people have been housed in temporary accommodation, but the need for wraparound care has increased with those people now living alone and without the support of their community.
The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex (PFCC) contributed £15,000 to Beacon House Ministries in the form of a crime and disorder reduction grant from the 2020-2021 Community Safety Development Fund to expand the service during the pandemic. This project supported the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst, in achieving their priority to protect the vulnerable and prevent people becoming the victims of crime.
CEO Steve Brown was keen to ensure the 91 people known to them to be homeless in the area were given the care they needed during the pandemic and lockdowns.
Using the funding, he was able to continue to operate with his team working longer hours and travelling around the town to be a consistent presence in the lives of those in need.
He said: “We have been able to remain open during the pandemic.
“Beacon House has large windows, so we provided food and drink, medical support and help with housing applications through our windows when it was not possible to allow our guests indoors.
“For those who were given temporary accommodation, it was often simply a roof over their head, with no cooking facilities and nothing to occupy them. Yes, they were off of the streets, but they were very much isolated and alone. They went from rough sleeping among a group of people they knew, to being in isolation. Our nurses went out to visit them, our occupational therapist bought and supplied radios, TVs and games and we phoned them every single day to check they were coping.
“We went out and about an awful lot, just to make sure nobody fell through the gap. Had we not intervened with those in temporary accommodation, there would have been people in far worse situations. A lot of the people we support have current, historical or recent involvement in the criminal justice system. During lockdown, when they could not get things for free, the temptation would have been there to steal. By us providing whatever we could and going out to them, it reduced the likelihood of them offending.
“Apart from not physically having people in Beacon House, none of our services were curtailed. That is fantastic. That could not have happened without the PFCC funding – it made a huge difference.
“One thing that takes time to build is trust. If we had vanished during the pandemic, that continuity would have gone. You can get it back to some degree, but it’s never the same. Our guests were very grateful we stayed open. We gave them a lifeline.
“We are interested in transforming lives. We want to see people moving on. The funding enabled us to make a huge difference in people’s lives.”
Beacon House operates as a primary healthcare centre to diagnose and treat illness, provide a health screening service, sexual health clinics, a needle exchange service, and clinical support to access GPs and secondary health services, through two clinics and in-house nurses.
They also offer the services of a GP.
Guests can use the hub’s showers, laundry, hairdressing and podiatry services, as well as access smoking cessation programmes, toiletries and recycled clothes.
Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner said: “The work that Beacon House has done with vulnerable people has been truly amazing. To be able to provide this level of service in the midst of a pandemic just shows how resilient people are and how committed they are to helping others. We all have a part to play in building the communities we want to live in and it is a privilege to be able to support Beacon House in such crucial work.”