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Technology and adaptability sees Derby social landlord help more than 1,200 people face a better future after COVID

Technology and adaptability sees Derby social landlord help more than 1,200 people face a better future after COVID

Adaptability and having the right technology available to ensure its staff could stay in touch helped the residents of a Derby social landlord weather the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to its annual report.

Derventio Housing Trust says that following the pandemic it has been left with a huge sense of pride after a survey of residents found that more than 90% reported they were now making positive improvements to their lives.

Derventio offers more than 600 rooms of their own to homeless people in 12 local authority areas in Derbyshire and the South-West and took on 501 new residents in the year 2020 from 2021.

In total it helped 1,237 people in one way or another, such as providing accommodation or one-to-one support through its community programmes helping people get into training and work.

At the height of the pandemic, when its staff were prevented from meeting people indoors and its community projects such as its Growing Lives scheme in Ilkeston had to close its doors, Derventio quickly put in place a series of emergency measures to ensure that nobody was left feeling isolated.

This included texting or ringing people regularly or standing on their doorsteps, socially distanced and wearing masks, and working harder with residents facing evictions to give them another chance.

It also created activity packs for residents who did not have access to the TV or internet so that they could keep boredom at bay.

A survey of residents found that although 78% said that lockdown has adversely affected their mental health, 96% reported feeling safe in their homes.

Ninety-six per cent felt that staff had kept in touch with them during lockdown and 92% said that they are now gaining the skills they need to avoid homelessness in the future.

Jackie Carpenter, Derventio’s assistant director of strategy, said:

“The year has been particularly challenging because of the pandemic, which made it a very difficult 12 months.

“However, it’s clear from the report that despite these challenges we continued to meet the needs of residents and participants and that the vast majority of people have emerged from the year stronger than when they went in.

“We realised very quickly that loneliness and anxiety make a big dent in people’s mental health and so we realised that it was important for everybody to see human beings or, if that wasn’t possible, stay in touch.

“The preparedness of Derventio Housing Trust when it comes to the technology we already had at hand, such as laptops and phones with internet access, meant that we were able to achieve that, which made a huge difference.

“We also didn’t have to furlough any of our staff, which is something that we are extremely proud of.”

One resident who benefitted from the work of Derventio was Stephen Fletcher, who went from taking Class A drugs and bedding down in a horsebox to living in his own home and facing a brighter and more settled future.

He was helped by Julie Howells, head of employability at Derventio’s Opportunity and Change project, which supports people facing severe and multiple disadvantages.

Stephen, 54, said:

“I am so grateful to Derventio and Julie because I really don’t know where I’d be without them, and her. I can’t thank her enough, she’s my guardian angel.

“At the time I was a mess, I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t have anywhere to live, I was depressed and I was on drugs. I needed my life cleaning up and Julie did that for me.

“I’ve got a lovely flat now and Julie is still in contact with me and helping me.”

Derventio also worked with local authorities to ensure no-one was sleeping on the streets during the pandemic, setting aside accommodation for those who would have been at risk if they had been sleeping rough overnight, as part of Derby’s Severe Weather Provision scheme. 

The Government asked local councils to moving everyone off the streets for lockdown, many going into hotels.

Jackie added:

“It’s actually been a big success in Derby and Derbyshire. Everybody in a hotel got an offer of accommodation, which showed that homelessness is more a problem of political will and money than it is anything else.”

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