The Pavement and Groundswell ‘Health & Wellbeing in a crisis’

New Pavement magazine being distributed to 15,000 people experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Front cover of the Health & Wellbeing in a crisis Pavement magazineThe Pavement is a charity which has been producing a magazine for homeless people since 2005. Now it has created a one-off booklet [click on image to view and download] for rough sleepers and insecurely housed people who have been provided with temporary accommodation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Funded by a Crisis ‘In This Together Emergency Response Award’, 15,000 copies of ‘Health & Wellbeing In A Crisis’ are being distributed in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle and Greater Manchester.

“Almost all the content has been created with people who have at some point been homeless,” says the Pavement editor Nicola Baird. “We also worked closely with Groundswell which is a brilliant organisation. At its heart is a strong belief in the meaningful involvement of people with lived experience of homelessness in the decision-making process that informs the design, development and delivery of the policies and services that affect their own lives.”

Since lockdown began in March many people who are homeless have had to self-isolate. They may be under a roof but many of the services they relied on have switched to online and life can be very boring. While for those with addictions an unplanned withdrawal of treatment can even be life-threatening.

‘Health & Wellbeing In A Crisis’ is a 32pp A6 booklet full of ideas to stay mentally and physically strong. It also contains information on how to access benefits and find reliable sources at a time when scams, urban myths and fake news have escalated.

Groundswell volunteers Stuart and Mark really rate the booklet. Stuart, who’s in temporary accommodation, believes, “It’s empowering and gives options because it’s about what people could be doing rather than should be doing. It’s absolutely useful – I love the whole thing and the whole idea. I love the opening cartoon (p5). I like the idea of getting it across to people in drug use to ration and think ahead. One of the big things is using this lockdown time to try and find yourself so I liked Mat’s article about finding yourself (p24-26).”

While Mark describes it as, “A very sound overview, a comprehensive account of ways to restrict the risks that COVID-19 has for homeless communities and showing how we can support each other.”

Mainstream media ideas of how to relax or stay busy indoors are not always possible for our readers who are temporarily housed, perhaps in a hotel room with just a TV and maybe a kettle. The booklet has loads of suggestions for staving off boredom with or without WiFi and also shares practical advice for those with addictions. There are tips to keep mental health strong and a list of contacts to call when extra support is needed.

“The massive commitment and dedication of  our volunteers (many of whom have lived experience of homelessness) the rest of our amazing small team and of our partners, has enabled the Pavement to respond quickly and decisively to the vital information needs of homeless people in this pandemic,” says the Pavement trustee William Butler.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Groundswell has developed resources to support people experiencing homelessness. These were created in collaboration with volunteers who have been homeless so know the challenges; many have slept rough and some are still living in hostels. Groundswell’s current research aims to understand the impact of COVID-19 and the response across the country on people who are homeless (see p32).

#HealthNow is a campaign to make sure everyone gets the health care they need. It’s run by Groundswell, Crisis and Shelter to make a better healthcare system with input from people who are homeless. For the first time the Pavement will be going to people in Birmingham, Newcastle and Greater Manchester thanks to this network. If you have been homeless there are opportunities to get involved.

“Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on people who are experiencing homelessness. The pandemic is causing particular challenges with the health and wellbeing of this already vulnerable group. Working with the Pavement to produce and distribute ‘Health & Wellbeing In A Crisis’ means that essential advice and guidance to help address this issue is in the hands of people who are homeless,” says Martin Burrows, Director of Research and Campaigns, Groundswell.

In the magazine, Groundswell Case Worker John is interviewed about the COVID-19 testing he is carrying out across hostels and hotels in London. You can read the full interview here.