“The word ‘lockdown’ terrified me. I was trapped for so long in an abusive relationship before, it was too much.”
The language used around the pandemic caused a lot of fear, confusion and often prejudice. It was also apparent that the communication with outreach teams throughout lockdown was hugely important, and for some was often the only direct source of help and advice.
Many people Mayday spoke to had previously experienced abusive and violent relationships, others had spent time in prison. This meant when the term lockdown was introduced people were fearful for what it meant. One woman the team spoke to share how she felt she needed to get as far away as possible, but due to her situation, she had nowhere to go. She became paranoid, avoiding her friends, and a lot of anxiety around her past experiences resurfaced.
English was not the first language for many of the people the team spoke to, leading to confusion over the key messages around the pandemic. Some people doubted the seriousness of the situation, while others were left panicked and confused. Two individuals explained that they were classified as having ‘no recourse to public funds’ and had been turned away by charities.
“They say they can’t help me. I worked for cash before Coronavirus, I got by. Now there’s no work, they say they’re not allowed to help me, there’s no money.”
Messaging used by the media, government and sometimes charities meant that people often felt judged for being on the street, when in most cases people felt that it was their only option.
“They don’t know how much pressure they’re putting on us, how it feels. Sometimes I just want to scream – I probably could you know and no one would notice. The Government have no idea.”
On multiple occasions people shared that when they had come into contact with outreach teams they were supportive, offering help and listening to any concerns. People sympathised that teams were busy, and services were not being run as normal due to the pandemic. However, at times the lack of capacity meant misinformation was passed on or there were inconsistencies in the team connecting with people.
“They were nice, they gave me suggestions on safer places to sleep, told me where I could get a shower, a free sleeping bag, and maybe even accommodation. I thought things were going to be okay at that point.”