Shelter is the UK’s leading homelessness and housing charity which helps millions of people each year struggling with homelessness and poor housing, through their free helpline, local advice, support and legal services. They campaign, undertake research and develop policies to raise awareness of their experiences and to give people a voice and so one day no-one will have to turn to shelter for help.
Shelter has used NET Coronavirus Appeal funds to support 31 new advisers for the charity’s emergency helplines in England and Scotland. One of those advisors is Olivia Dunphy, who started working at Shelter in September 2020. Between March and November 2020, 29.5% of Shelter’s calls related directly or indirectly to the virus.
Olivia describes her experiences: ‘within my own calls I’ve had people concerned about vaccine uptake, the long-term health implications of the virus, and sofa-surfing during lockdown.’
‘Every single client has a different and complex situation which requires diagnosis and uniquely specific advice. I’ve had clients laugh with me and cry to me so far, it’s a real privilege to feel like you’re helping people at their most vulnerable time.’
Besides examining tenancy agreements, calling councils, discussing occupier’s rights and signposting to services, the helpline also influences Shelter’s wider policy and campaigning work. The clients who first meet Shelter’s advisors on the helpline can go on to tell their story in media campaigns or case studies.
Since Shelter started answering calls in November, there has been a huge increase in the amount of clients able to access the helpline service and get advice tailored to their situation. In early January Shelter answered 190 calls in one day.