*UPDATE: Sadly since this item was written, we have discovered that the warehouse has been broken into and many of the items that were scheduled for delivery this week were stolen. Please can you help us by donating, or asking your business or network to see if they can donate any of the items on this list that we need to replace: Toiletries / cleaning products / PPE / tinned & dried food. If you can help, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
As many have witnessed in recent weeks, a positive side to the coronavirus pandemic story has been the community response – many actively caring for others, through physical distancing, delivering shopping, keeping in touch, volunteering, donating items and fundraising.
Around homelessness in Greater Manchester, as the ‘Everyone In’ policy was implemented, we quickly saw hotels open up to safely house people who had been rough sleeping and staying in shared accommodation. It was not only the buildings to organise, but staffing by redeploying the workforce from a range of different organisations, redesigning health and support services, deep cleaning, arranging preparation and delivery of meals, and getting other items to care for people’s wellbeing, social and support needs.
As part of this response, some of us involved in GMHAN stepped into new coordination roles, including communication with the network, and triage of items needed for people in hotels and experiencing other forms of homelessness. Aswell as food items, we needed to source toiletries, cleaning products, personal protective equipment, smartphones and tablets, books, activities and other items.
Before collecting donations, we needed to find a warehouse and volunteers to run it, which was kindly offered by a Manchester based business. We then worked on building up a clear list of what was needed across the hotels, frontline organisations and from homeless accommodation and b&bs, and used lots of different channels including CityCo., and Business In the Community to source these items from businesses and the public. Once this was communicated out and we started to see a response we then had a new question – how to quickly distribute the items we received quickly and fairly to where they were most needed…
Co-Designing The How
With many items needed across different locations and organisations, we wanted to co-design a process that took into account different perspectives and that would work for all.
We started with an open zoom call for the network to agree together how to do this, using a method called Convergent Facilitation. to come to a shared understanding of what was important to consider when designing a process. This was agreed by all attendees, and then the group then used these criteria to come up with a process…
- Street Support Network collate and communicate a list of what’s needed, getting the requests to as many with resources as possible
- Offers come into email@example.com for triage
- People are directed to drop off items at the central storage, with some items going to different locations
- As items arrive, an inventory is kept up to date that is transparent to all involved
- Items procured directly for one of the hotels, are distributed directly
- All other items go to a distribution panel, set up specifically for this, with representation from different sectors
- A weekly call was set up for the panel to work through requests and work out distribution for items where supply didn’t meet demand, based on the agreed criteria
- Delivery instructions are collated from the call, and the warehouse staff organise delivery
Both the criteria and agreed process were recorded and shared so that the entire process is transparent and open to feedback from others in the network. (You can read what was agreed here.). To date, over 150 covid needs have been triaged, 42,000+ items donated, and 34 volunteers matched to frontline organisations. This includes regular weekly donations from Greggs and Warburtons, large scale offers such as 8000 toothbrushes/toothpaste, and amazing public efforts like a whole Street in South Manchester who put out a donation parcel for our volunteer drivers to pick up in one trip! We have also seen stock being shared between different charities – one organisation, Shrimad Rajchandra Love and Care, went a step further and included hand written cards for us to deliver with their items to people who are homeless in Greater Manchester.
While there has been a sense that in a crisis ‘command and control’ is necessary and co-production and collaborative working is difficult, we found that with our existing relationships in GMHAN and the Manchester Homelessness Partnership, and some creative co-design, we have been able to open up these decisions and benefit from the wisdom of multiple perspectives.
It is not perfect, we have concerns about those who are not included in the conversations, including looking at different blockers to accessing online meetings. We have found actions to take around some of these blockers, including sourcing smartphones, tablets and access to data/wifi for people that want it, and there is still more to understand and find solutions for, during the current crisis and beyond.
As ever, we welcome your suggestions and feedback. You can get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to know more about GMHAN and get involved, you can join the GMHAN mailing list here, or join one of our next events on 20th or 21st May.