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Stories From the Frontline - Support During COVID-19

Stories From the Frontline - Support During COVID-19

Stories From the Frontline - Support During COVID-19

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sarah Westfall, ‘Journey Coach’ at Riverside, has spoken with the Frontline Network about the incredible efforts being made to support people during the COVID-19 outbreak, and how this public health crisis affects everyone on the frontline:


Stories from the Frontline - Support During COVID-19

Often, much of the work we do in frontline homelessness services is framed by the individuals we support. As a national provider of supported housing as well as a social landlord, Riverside seeks to help a range of people of all ages and circumstances, including those with complex and multifaceted needs.

However, the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us that we are all experiencing large degrees of uncertainty. This change has dramatically affected the support needs of everyone: from staff, to managers, to commissioners, to the people we support.

This is most definitely the case for me, my family and my colleagues.

For my own part, I felt massively conflicted going into work and I am sure other frontline workers feel the same. My family feared for my safety and asked me whether I might also ‘stay at home’.

On the other hand, I want to support my colleagues facing the same challenges as me; the customers who rely heavily on family support and feel isolated now they are unable to visit.

There is still a service to run, and I want to be there to contribute.

Adapting how to offer support 

However, we are now adapting our support and even providing some digital resources for these customers such as a TV, phone or radio which has helped social distancing.

Individuals are responding and actively practising social distancing well, cleaning their hands regularly and doing as much as staff in preventing infection of a virus that poses a danger to us all.

There are extra challenges built into the work we do, of course. Social distancing is particularly difficult when completing welfare checks with customers who have deteriorating mental health, have suicidal ideation or are at risk of self-harm.

Staff are working out how to safely support customers in these situations, whilst their own fears are elevated, and they are hyper-aware of the additional risks present.

PPE is slowly becoming everyone’s new uniform or ‘cape’. Riverside’s posters say that we are ‘superheroes’, which has helped boost morale and remind us why we’re doing it! 

Managing your mental health

As the pandemic goes on, I know I cannot control the world around me, but I can control how I help the people I support and my colleagues.

My family understands this too (even though they still worry!) and we have had heaps of information about COVID-19, temporary procedures to see us through and been able to share concerns.


Finding positives from the outbreak

There are several positives to come from this outbreak, and we are having some great conversations with the individuals we support. We’ve also all been buoyed by number of donations of food and community support. Customers have even cooked cakes and full dinners for everyone!

We continue to reassure the people we support - and each other - through laughter, showing kindness and patience.

In these moments, you almost forget there is a global pandemic at all in fact. I suppose whilst we must remain two metres apart, and still have those fears for the future, there is a huge sense of togetherness and being on the same level with each other which I hope lasts.

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