Spring 2020

Something really hit me in the gut on or around the 1st March about the potential reality of the coronavirus.

As CEO of an organisation that has dedicated 130 years to being there for others in times of individual crisis, the fact that all indications were there that the World would be going into a potential global crisis in the form of a pandemic felt potentially totally overwhelming. However in my experience, the only way really to deal with potential chaos is get organised. From the 2nd March to the 13th March, I wrote a WLM COVID19 Business Continuity Plan with support from my Director of Operations, Jude and input from the wider WLM management team. In the first week of writing the plan we decided that the risk to our residents in our service for men affected by long term alcohol addiction, The Haven, were so vulnerable that we needed to ‘lockdown’ the service as much as we could by stopping all visitors and volunteers entering that building. We did this on Thursday 5th March 2020.

Whilst writing the plan it also became clear that communication between staff would be vital if we needed to work from home so we undertook our first all Management ZOOM meeting on Thursday 12th March 2020. We also asked all our staff about underlying health issues and their need to use public transport and quickly devised that those who needed to stay home and work would do so and those who could attend our projects would not need to get public transport but would travel in taxi’s to ensure the best possible focus on infection control. This felt like a bold move for a charity who always has to focus on cost, but key to saving lives so became non-negotiable.  

The WLM Business Continuity Plan was approved by the WLM Housing and Community Services Committee, which oversees our work on behalf of the West London Mission Circuit on Monday 16th March 2020 at 12noon. At 6pm on Monday 16thMarch 2020 the plan was implemented. The whole focus of the plan was to protect our spaces, our residents and our staff. All who could work from home did so and we mobilised investment in technology so that staff had laptops and phones. That day we closed our Winter Night Centre at Seymour Place in Marylebone and put all of our residents into a local hotel so they could self-isolate. We did this at own expense and weeks before confirmation came that this would be funded by the government. We closed all non-residential services on the 16th March 2020 and moved our support online including our counselling and money advice services. Our strategy has been throughout to ensure that those living in WLM buildings would be supported depending on the level of support they require.

The organisation has quickly moved to home working ZOOM meetings and WhatsApp chats. However most importantly the whole organisation has refocused to protect the most vulnerable amongst us. We support via ZOOM, FaceTime or phone where necessary but also  where staff are on site we have supplemented our 24-hour hostels with extra technology, security, cleaning and transport. We are absolutely in this together as a WLM staff team, this is not a hollow statement. The money we are spending is all out of budget costs for WLM. We wanted to ensure that all the resources WLM did have would create the protected environments without compromise.

Each day we work as a staff team to hold that driving principle precious. I am humbled by the dedication of the team to remain organised when all around is chaos. If you can please support us in this incredible effort please donate via our Website.

Best wishes,

Roger