Tell us a bit about yourself. What do you do? Where have you been spending lock down?
Hi, I’m Pam and most days, I’m the CEO at the homelessness charity The Connection at St Martins just down the Road from The House. On the other days, I have been decorating my new house in South East London and creating a garden from the plain lawn I inherited. Having moved in on 1st February 2020, this has given me a really good focus during the lockdowns of the past year. In between painting and digging, I have finally watched all 7 series of The West Wing as well as the complete Schitts Creek. I broke things up a bit at Christmas and did a couple of really hard jigsaws.
How’s lockdown been for you?
Lock down for me has been a really interesting experience. In March last year, the Government announced the Everyone In programme. We moved most of our rough-sleeping clients into hotels. We gave out a lot of mobile phones so that we could stay in contact with, and support, as many people as possible during lock down. We supported The Passage with their food hub – providing 3 meals a day to up to 300 people in hotels between April and June.
Normally there are around 350 people sleeping rough on any one night in Westminster. During the first lock down this reduced to less than 100. For those people in hotels and self-isolating, there was an amazing opportunity to access the intensive wrap around support it’s so hard to line up when people are on the streets. Accommodation, benefits, immigration advice, mental and physical health treatment and support to address addiction all came together. As a result, many of our long-standing clients thrived in the new circumstances.
In July, as the hotel programme ended, we re-established most of our services in our building by St Martins. We made some radical changes, reducing client numbers and organizing people into “bubbles” to avoid infection spread and re-establishing our emergency accommodation in a hotel called The Bridge. We decided that we would not reinstate our pre-pandemic service delivery model once this is over. This means there have been difficult choices to make and I am incredibly proud of the achievements of the Connection staff team throughout this difficult time.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself (or the world) over the last year?
Last March, as the world started to close in on us, inevitably my work stress rose and it’s stayed steady throughout so I’m glad to have retained my resilience! Actually, I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve enjoyed the quietness of my own company for such extended periods of time. I’ve also really appreciated simple pleasures – a daily greeting with the local coffee shop staff, nice cheese, cooking a stew, a good walk, growing beans or chatting to neighbours over the garden fence.
With so much DIY and gardening already under my belt, in the current lockdown I decided to get my exercise through the NHS/BBC couch to 5k app. Every other day, Michael Johnson has spoken into my headphones in reassuring tones as I gradually build up my stamina. I was hoping that by the time I finished the 9 week programme, we might be moving out of lockdown but it doesn’t look like it just yet.
What have you missed most about the House? What do you look forward to getting back to? If you could have a drink with one person (real or imaginary) at our bar, who would it be?
Prior to lockdown, I celebrated my 50th Birthday at The House and it’s somewhere I liked to come for a drink with fellow homelessness CEOs. If I could meet anyone at the bar, I’d love to bump into Joyce Grenfell, or Kirsty McColl. However, in real life I’ve been known to find the Chair of The Connection in there from time to time, he’s also a member.
Say hello to me to talk… e.g. marketing, the offside rule, the history of the brioche bun
Some day, when we are allowed to again, I’d be very happy to share news and views on homelessness in Westminster. However, it might be a bit nicer to discuss the pros and cons of the West Wing or create a campaign for a 7th series of Schitts Creek.
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