public health

COVID 19, housing and health

COVID 19, housing and health

At Kinearait is important to us to identify and support with housing concerns for any of the families or individuals we work with. As well as developing housing interventions that aim to prevent eviction, address financial hardship caused by housing costs, or settle into long term, stable accommodation, specialist support for housing is also offered to any household that may need it, even if they have come to us on an education or employment programme.  

The reason for this is we know that for a person’s wellbeing to improve in a sustainable way, their home must provide a solid foundation for them. And when a family is housing insecure, the support we provide is likely to have far less impact unless we work with them to address those housing challenges. 

And last 6 months have thrown the relationship between good quality, safe, stable housing and health into sharp relief.  

“For a person’s wellbeing to improve in a sustainable way, their home must provide a solid foundation for them.”

Covid-housing-healthWhile the reality about the impacts Covid-19 impact is still emerging, early reports have already demonstrated clear links between poor housing and Covid-19 deathsThe death rate for Covid-19 is England’s poorest boroughs, including Tower Hamlets where we deliver M2E in schools, is twice the rate than in the richest areas according to the latest information. And it is in those poorest areas that we tend to also find a higher rate of overcrowding, higher prevalence of HMOs’ and higher shortages of social housing, which have also shown to be correlated with Covid-19 deathsIn addition, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black African households are more likely to be living in overcrowded homes, which may explain in part why these groups are overrepresented in Covid 19 deaths.  

Moreover, there arbroader health impacts of poor and insecure housing being experienced in these communities that have long been present and have been made worse by closures, stay-at-home measures and financial hardship brought on by the crisis. 

How lockdown impacted temporary accommodation residents in Bexley 

In July, we surveyed 11 participants of Opening Doorsour project that supports temporary accommodation tenants with complex needs into long term secure housing, to find out about how the lockdowns had impacted their lives, health and wellbeing. 

Isolation and lack of social contact emerged as one of the most difficult things those surveyed faced during the lockdowns, with nearly two thirds saying their contact with friends, family and community networks decreased. Nearly half of those surveyed also reported that feelings of anxiety and depression increased, and that their mental health in general had been impacted by the pandemic. Those same respondents also reported difficulty accessing their statutory or community-based support services. In addition, 4 respondents had difficulty accessing medication and 1 reported having suicidal thoughts.  

“Isolation and lack of social contact emerged as one of the most difficult things those surveyed faced during the lockdowns.”

Just under half (41%) of those surveyed reported that their finances had worsened because of the crisis, with a third saying they were behind on rent since lockdown began and a quarter behind on other bills too5 respondents also had trouble accessing food, either because local shops had closed, money was tight, or because friends or family who usually support them with these errands were unable to do so.  

What had been most helpful for those surveyed was the weekly calls and check in’s by their support practitioner, SandraHaving a listening ear and compassionate connection has been vital for those who have been isolated, helping to reduce anxiety. For some, the closures have meant that their move out of TA has been delayed, but all of those surveyed said they were happy with Kineara’s communication about the programme and said that Kineara’s presence had been useful during this time. In the meantime Sandra’s support getting in touch with local services when needed, finding information online, support paying bills and rent was also important to those surveyed.  

How does housing impact health? 

It seems obvious, but housing stress can have a major impact on our physical and mental healthIn our work, we see how drug and alcohol recovery, anxiety and depression, and long term chronic conditions can all be worsened by unsuitable or insecure housing. 

We recently met Beverly*, a young woman living in temporary accommodation and just about to start her A-Levels. She told us she has moved every one or two months in the last year – even during lockdown – struggling to feel safe in shared accommodation after an earlier experience of sexual abuse. She mentioned that she had an anxiety disorder and had support from mental health services, but that finding housing that meant she could feel safe and focus on her studies was the most important thing for her.  

 “In our work, we see how drug and alcohol recovery, anxiety and depression, and long term chronic conditions can all be worsened by unsuitable or insecure housing”

As Beverly was referred to us via the Opening Doors programme, we told her that finding housing was also our priority, but that delays caused by Covid meant it would be around 6 months before a move to her own flat could happen. This was devastating for her – moving out of her current room was urgent and the news was extremely disappointing. The following week, her practitioner Sandra received a call from NHS crisis support: Beverly had called in extreme distressthe news that she wouldn’t be able to move before starting college was too much, and was, for her the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sandra and her crisis support worker are now working together to support her in the interim.  

Trevor*, also referred to our Opening Doors programme earlier in the year, was struggling to maintain his recovery from alcohol while living in temporary accommodation in an HMO. He had been diagnosed with depression and has epilepsyand at times has seizures brought on by stress and anxiety. He was eligible for social housing but had been on the list for some time. His shared accommodation meant that his pursuit of recovery and improved health was in jeopardy, as other residents were drinking and several times police were called to the property. For peace, mental focus, and to keep away from alcohol, Trevor found it easier to stay in his own room – but during lockdown the pressures of this isolation took a toll on his mental health.  

“Having a listening ear and compassionate connection has been vital for those who have been isolated, helping to reduce anxiety.”

Through listening ear work, welfare calls, and lots of encouragement, Sandra supported Trevor to keep bidding for flats, to keep paying off rent arrears that had built up, and prepare for a positive change to come. Having someone to share the burdens of his isolation was crucial and his determination paid off. Last week, he called to tell us he signed a tenancy for his own flat having been finally offered a social housing tenancy.  

 

*Names have been changed for privacy purposes. 

Posted by kineara in Community, Housing
Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

Kineara’s response to coronavirus closures

23 March 2020

 

Last week the UK Government made the decision to shut down schools as the country continues to address the coronavirus spread throughout the UK. This was in addition to several other Government measures to increase social distancing and offer some relief to people effected by the virus.

 

At this time, our priority concern is for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and the people we work with, many of whom are being particularly impacted by the virus and its broader consequences. For families who are already in precarious housing, on low incomes, living in overcrowded homes or with children with complex needs, the coming months will be particularly challenging.

 

We are thankful that at this time we are able to temporarily sustain our services, despite having to reduce the level of support we can offer. Whilst the schools are closed, and social distancing is being advised, we won’t be able to run sessions or make visits to our clients in the way we usually would.

 

But, we are doing what we can to overcome the disruption and continue to provide the best support we can over the phone, via calls and video chat. We have been speaking with our school and housing partners to make arrangements about how we can provide school-home services and housing support going forward. We also are connecting with local voluntary services so that we can make sure people have access to essential support through this time. We hope that, with enough planning, we can continue to support you in meaningful ways, including support for the impact of the coronavirus. We’ll continue to review our work as we go forward.

 

We are also preparing a list useful links of local services, mutual aid groups, and community support for our website in coming days, so that anyone who we have worked with now or in the past can find out what is on offer in their area.

 

The families and households we are currently working with will be, if they have not been already, contacted by their practitioner in the coming days to make ongoing arrangements.

 

We know that for many people this will be a stressful and worrying moment. At Kineara, we are always focused on how best to support people through challenging times – and for the next few weeks, we know many people in London and the UK will face many challenges. We will do the best we can to help you through it.

 

 

The Kineara Team

 

 

 

Posted by kineara in Community, Education, Employment, Housing, Latest