Our hostel in lockdown

September 27, 2020

Even though running a hostel is what we do, it was easier said than done in a pandemic. Throughout lockdown the Cardinal Hume Centre has been home to 41 young people who have faced homelessness and are working to get their lives back on track. Each will have experienced trauma, whether as a refugee, care-leaver, victim of abuse, or a combination of these and other traumatic experiences.

Closing the hostel because of Covid-19 would have meant moving young people to temporary accommodation, worsening their isolation and risking the progress they have made. We chose to keep our residents in their home, as one large household, supported 24-hours a day by staff who know them and understand their individual needs.

Half of our hostel staff needed to shield at home. Despite the support of skilled temporary staff nothing can replace the trust and confidence that young people invest in permanent staff with whom they have been working for months. Maintaining mental health has been tough. Fear and frustration as well as the health threat have affected us all. Underlying issues have been aggravated by lockdown, with some of our most outgoing young people becoming withdrawn. Considering the difficulties they have already experienced, we are proud of how residents have coped with so much change and uncertainty.

Temporary staff, increasing cleaning and social-distancing regimens involve significant additional costs. We have recruited two new permanent staff and continue to seek funding to safeguard staffing levels against new restrictions or local lockdowns. Without the help of our supporters, our responsibility towards these young people would be at risk.

In 2019, 61 young people moved through our supported accommodation, each benefitting from their own room, individual action-planning, life-skills and language programmes, and help in accessing education and employment.

The fallout of the pandemic is likely to pose further challenges to our young people. In the meantime, one of the five Basil Hume House residents has been employed throughout the pandemic as a key worker in a local supermarket. And three other hostel residents won places at universities; and we will continue working together to keep them on the path out of homelessness.