For those experiencing homelessness, the idea of not knowing when they might get their own home was hard enough…and then COVID come and along halted the world, and what was already unknown became even more unknown.
The ball was already rolling on improving things in Glasgow before the pandemic: Housing First was being implemented, benefiting those most in need of extra support after being given permanent accommodation; workers and volunteers like myself were out gathering information from services and the people using them, offering advocacy to those who felt like they had no voice, speaking to people about their options and providing much-needed advice to people using homelessness services; information about our experiences of homelessness was being provided to researches who would come into the office and learn from us; and, most importantly, members of Glasgow Homelessness Involvement Feedback Team (GHIFT) with lived experience of homelessness like myself were given an equal voice and equal say as part of the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness.
Today, I am still lucky to be involved in many aspects of GHIFT. We hold weekly discussions (online now), providing information and opportunities that we can still be involved in. Despite the pandemic making things more difficult, our main aim – to help reduce and eventually end homelessness – is still in progress.
Through GHIFT there are lots of options for ways to get involved but I personally like the hands-on work: going out there into hotels, hostels and refuges gathering info, talking to those who perhaps haven’t had a normal conversation with someone during a time when people are already socially isolated, and working with the Glasgow Alliance to End Homelessness, the Council and other agencies to use the information we find out to improve things for everyone experiencing homelessness in Glasgow.
At the moment it’s hard to look a month ahead but I’m sure the future, post-COVID, will be bright for GHIFT and the ball will be rolling even faster than it was. I’m looking forward to being back in the office sharing a table with the rest of the team, brainstorming ideas and making sure that the voices of people with lived experiences of homelessness are included in all of the work to end homelessness in Glasgow.