When lockdown kicked in I had just left a full-time job to develop my portfolio freelance practice. My intention had been to spend most of March networking and developing relationships ready to start working on projects. I had some savings left over from my full-time role and a bit of cash to see me through for the next couple of months, but beyond that I knew I would have to find work which would sustain me as I wasn’t eligible for either the furlough or self-employed schemes. I was fairly certain I would have to pack up and leave London to move back in with my Mum in York.
I met the Museum of Homelessness (MOH) team through my last project. MOH’s immediate response when Covid-19 hit was to change their business model so they were able to operate as an emergency relief organisation – finding a building, volunteers and partnering with Streets Kitchen to develop the infrastructure to provide 7 days a week support to members of the homeless community in Islington. MOH were key in lobbying the government to provide Temporary Accommodation (TA) for rough sleepers during the height of the crisis.
My role is ‘Homeless Taskforce Hub Supervisor’, meaning I’m responsible for managing a small team of volunteers. We support roughly 50-60 people each day In the Angel/Highbury & Islington area – some of which are in TA and others who are street homeless. As a supervisor, I’m responsible for ensuring everyone has the correct PPE, that handwashing stations are set up and checking everyone’s temperature on arrival. We then get to work preparing food packs for the TA’s which includes snacks, cooking ingredients and toiletries. We provide everyone with a hot meal each day which is either cooked on site or provided via a mutual aid group.
I’ve loved working with the hub once a week. I’m so thankful to have had a purpose. The biggest shift for me was adjusting what I knew about pastoral care and putting that into a non-theatrical social justice context which I’d had little experience of working in. It’s an area of work which you get emotionally involved in very quickly – I find myself getting quickly worried if we don’t see a rough sleeper we’ve been supporting for a few days. You take that home with you.
I applied for the ACE emergency grant to cover the confirmed income lost – thankfully I was successful. The ACE money was a relief and gave me some breathing space to find more work. I’ve managed to fill the other 4 days in the week with freelance comms, admin and producing work – I think it’s been easier for producers to pick up work during this time than other creatives because our skillset is quite broad and we already wear many different hats.