As you'll be aware, things are changing by the hour and some of the information below may now we out of date. Please make sure to check our most recent news stories for the latest updates relating to our work and the virus.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us in different ways and official information and guidance is changing rapidly. We wanted to provide this information to ensure that our supporters and partners understand what we (Boaz) are doing at this present time (updated 15th March 2020). We also hope some of the links and information we've included might be helpful for other small organisations.
IMPORTANT: If you are currently experiencing flu-like symptoms including a new, recurrent cough or a high temperature, please follow NHS guidance here and please let your regular Boaz contact know (e.g. support worker, or other main staff contact).
Our aim is to end destitution among people seeking asylum here in the UK and we want to continue that work as best we can. We are following advice and guidance from appropriate sources, including the NHS, the UK government and other agencies for example NACCOM, Homeless Link and others.
How are we supporting our clients?
We are concerned as to how the impact of this pandemic affects our clients. Many are already dealing with anxiety and other mental or physical health conditions which could increase their vulnerability to the psychological or physical impact of the pandemic. Others are deeply worried about friends or family who are living in countries that have been significantly affected by the virus.
We have distributed accessible health and hygiene information to our clients and will be providing new information in a range of languages from Doctors of the World in the next few days. We are doing our best to make sure that all of our shared houses have their usual adequate and appropriate supplies of cleaning materials and hygiene products including hand wash / soap, hand gel, tissues, toilet rolls (although this is proving challenging due to panic buying across our communities).
We don’t have a fixed programme of regular, recurring events, so we are making decisions on individual activities and meetings on a week by week (or day by day) basis. We can do some of our support work by telephone, and we are working out plans to make sure that our clients can access food and other basic supplies, for example if we cannot run our monthly Free Shop or distribute weekly or emergency food / travel money in the usual way.
All Boaz clients have our out of hours emergency phone number, and we are making sure that everyone is aware of the latest NHS guidance on how to respond if people become unwell and need to stay at home (self isolate).
What about the night shelter?
Our winter night shelter, which provides a vital lifeline to so many people, is probably our biggest area of concern. Our night shelter uses 8 public buildings (which may already have their own protocols in relation to people being in a shared space together, food provision and more), and is served by up to 300 volunteers from across our local communities. It goes without saying that in a night shelter context, self isolation is almost impossible. We are in regular communication with our local venue coordinators and our aim is to do our best to keep our night shelter open until the planned end of the season (30th April).
We recognise that some of our volunteers may feel particularly anxious during this time, especially if they or those close to them have underlying health concerns which may make them more vulnerable to the virus. We don't want anyone to feel under extra pressure to volunteer so we are encouraging venue volunteer teams to communicate honestly about this, so that if any venue is short on volunteers, we can work together to put a plan into place to try and keep the venues open.
What are we doing as a staff team?
To make sure that our essential core work with clients can continue with as little disruption as possible, a small group of Boaz staff are working together to lead our response to the situation. As a group we are developing plans, prioritising actions, making decisions and generally doing our best to ensure that our work can continue safely.
We have been looking at different scenarios such as if staff have to self-isolate or become ill, or if our office base were to close for a short or long period as well as how we are going to respond if and when someone we are in contact with tests positively for the virus. We're making sure that all our staff are following guidance in terms of keeping our office clean (including workstations, door handles and so on) and again making sure everyone has access to health and hygiene products. We've advised everyone to follow NHS guidance to stay at home should they develop flu-like symptoms, and we have made a plan should anyone start to feel ill while at work.
We already have flexible working in place (including some home-based working) and this is something we expect to be doing more of in the weeks ahead, whether or not the government moves to an Italy-style lock down.
Who else are we working with?
Beyond our own community of clients, staff, trustees and wider volunteers, we are in contact with the City Council and local health care professionals, as well as other local partner organisations in the refugee and homelessness sectors. Our aim is to work together in a coordinated way to make sure that our most vulnerable clients are able to access the support they need.
We’ll be doing our best to keep clients, volunteers and supporters up to date with information about our services and any specific requests for help as things develop. Please do keep an eye on our social media and website.
Thank you for your support.