By Gavin Mackintosh And Tony O’Riley-
Residents at a homeless Charity in Southend On Sea, Essex, suffered extreme stress and distress as a result of a 23 hour lockdown imposed on them during the lockdown, The Eye Of Media.Com can reveal.
In line with Uk lockdown rules which prohibits people from going out except for essential goods, or to mix in parks with members of their families, rough sleepers accommodated by Harp were forced to face stringent lockdown rules that saw them stuck in doors round the clock, apart from the one hour of exercise recommended by the government.
The tough restrictions led to outbreaks of strife and secret breaches of the regulations by those who sometimes clandestinely smoked in their rooms, only to be reported by fellow residents who objected to it.
The multi-million pound homeless centre is facing a number of complaints of distress and antagonistic conduct by disgruntled residents who complained that other rough sleepers in other shelters were allowed more time in the sunshine than they are permitted to benefit from.
Rough sleepers from all parts of Essex have for months been sent to Southend to be accommodated by Harp, leading to several rejections and evictions of those who fail to abide by the centre’s regulations. Evictions for returning to the resident late are not uncommon, and seen as a way of enforcing rules and regulations which must not be violated by reckless individuals.
The stress of a 23 hour lock-in during the lockdown has taken its toll on many of its residents, many of whom would spend their time either drinking or giving in to some of their vices if allowed out without restrain. Watching television and interacting with their friends on phone is all they could do in lockdown.
And Harp officials believe many of those who use their services are prone to contracting the deadly coronavirus because of other underlying issues many of them have.
One rough sleeper anonymously told The eye of media.com: ” It was stressful and very panicky being lockdown for 23 hours. We were told we could only be out for one hour. We were threatened with eviction if we stayed out beyond an hour.
Another resident who insisted on anonymity said: ”I suffered a mental breakdown , especially having to risk mixing with people I knew were not so bothered about the lockdown. I was well paranoid.
Another male, Martin said: the stress there was so real. People were starting arguments over silly things. One time, I nearly got into a fight with someone simply because I did not say hello to him. I thought it was up to me who I speak to”.
The reality is that many of these residents suffered from mental health issues before they moved into Harp.
Emergency Task Force
HARP , which has set up an emergency Task Force regarding COVID-19 and homelessness in Southend, also delivers emergency breakfast to rough sleepers , and liaises with a number of key agencies including Southend Council, the NHS, Public Health Services, Probation services, the Police, and other local agencies.
Jackie Bliss, HARP’s Chief Executive, said:
“Whilst we appreciate that lockdown was particularly difficult for some of our service users and residents, and we are deeply concerned that some of our vulnerable service users experienced heightened mental health challenges during this difficult period, ultimately our residents were encouraged to abide by the same rules as the rest of society in the national and international effort to control the spread of Covid-19.
In line with Government guidelines, we encouraged all HARP residents to abide by the Government guidelines to only leave the premises for essential goods or to take a maximum of one hour exercise a day.
At the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, we had to drastically alter our services to follow the rapidly evolving Government advice, whilst maintaining high levels of care and support for the vulnerable people who depend on us.
This was a huge challenge, and I am personally very proud of our team being able to support so many people through such a tough time. I am also pleased to say that we have not had a single case of Covid-19 amongst HARP’s service users at the time of writing, which, when set against the troubles seen in similar shared residences like Care Homes, is a fantastic achievement and a testament to the hard work and professionalism of our team.
We continue to offer remote support, including mental health support, to our residents and other users of our services, and we will always strive to adapt our services to ensure we can help as many people as best as we can. As we begin to come out of lockdown and emerge in to the ‘new normal’, we are also looking forward to recruiting new members of staff to help us to increase the level of vital mental health support that we are able to offer”.