Located in Norfolk in the southeast of England, Norwich is famous for its beautiful architecture, rich history, and Colman’s mustard. Norwich City Council is the lower tier of local Government in Norwich, which is responsible for managing local services such as housing, planning, leisure and tourism.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, providing emergency accommodation to rough sleepers became a vital part of tackling this growing health crisis. Norwich City Council were able to make use of hotel accommodation as part of their rough sleeping strategy. During the winter of 2020, rough sleepers faced a “double threat” of COVID-19 and cold weather; something that the council had to take into account when providing emergency and temporary accommodation.
The council approached Churchill Support Services to provide security services, such as access control, general patrolling services and logbook monitoring, for hotels that were being used as rough sleeping accommodation during the coronavirus crisis.
When it comes to providing security for rough sleeping accommodation, there are a number of security and pastoral aspects that need to be considered. The particular client group could also be complex and potentially challenging, with some rough sleepers having a substance dependency which could jeopardise the safety of themselves, other clients and staff. There was also the possibility of theft from both the site and other service users that had to be considered.
The COVID-19 pandemic also represented an unprecedented challenge, with virus management also forming a large part of the service we provided. It was also vital that we considered the health of our security guards and officers, who could possibly be at risk from viral spread whilst on the job.
Balancing quality security with a compassionate and considerate approach for these often-vulnerable clients was the path we knew we had to take.
We were able to provide access control for the main entrance of the accommodation. Our guards and officers were responsible for checking in and out guests, ensuring the identity of the client was verified and denying access to anyone not on the list. They were also responsible for the key holding service, escorting all clients to their rooms, and unlocking the door on their behalf.
For full transparency, we set up a WhatsApp group with all officers, the relevent Churchill management and the 24 hour control room. We also added the client and team relevant to the project. This allowed live reporting and a much quicker resolution for any problems that occurred whilst offering a strong support system for the officers the client and the residents.
Our officers were tasked with assessing the level of risk of clients, using their own judgment to determine if the client was a danger and weighing this up against the risk of the client sleeping rough. All incidents were recorded in the logbook provided to ensure transparency and monitoring.
When it came to the challenge of COVID-19, ensuring the safety of clients and guards was an absolute priority. We managed the risk of COVID-19 by ensuring that face masks and hand sanitiser were provided and used. We also employed temperature checks for all clients before they were admitted to the accommodation, helping minimise the risk of a viral outbreak occurring on the site.
Over the five-month period, over 80 individuals who were at risk of rough sleeping have been successfully provided with safe and secure accommodation in local hotels thanks to the support of Churchill Support Services. Despite the complexities surrounding the operation, our professional guards and officers managed any issues that came up at the accommodation effectively and with minimum disruption.
Norwich City Council commented “We’d like to express our thanks to Churchill Support Services for their role in providing security staff to the hotels secured to support rough sleepers as part of the council’s response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. We appreciate the work your team has done and thank you for your contribution to the successful management of our emergency provision, through which we were able to provide accommodation and support to these often-vulnerable clients and, in the vast majority of cases, ensure long term solutions so that they will not have to return to rough sleeping”.
Luke Toker, Churchill Support Services Head of Operations said: “This is normal for us, but still a real demonstration of what great management and service delivery looks like at Churchill Security.”