13 November 2021

The country went into lockdown during the pandemic but the doors of HAB never closed.  Now Joe Lee, HAB’s CEO, and John Bier, chairman of HAB’s board of trustees, look back at the dark days and forward to a bright future. 

At the start of the lockdown, in March 2020, the priority was to get homeless people off the street and into temporary accommodation. Then the challenge was how to keep people fed. 

Joe Lee says: “We had a plan but we had to keep adapting it as we went along.“

According to the previous street count, there were, on average, 23 people sleeping rough in Barnet. However, in the first month of lockdown, more than 170 were found emergency accommodation.  

HAB staff and volunteers worked with Together in Barnet, TIB, (which normally runs night shelters in the borough) to make up and deliver food parcels to them twice a week.

“It was a logistical nightmare as people were all over the place, from Hackney to Brent. Another challenge was how to keep in touch with these clients. So we had an appeal for mobile phones, and then we realised we had to find a way to keep them topped up.” 

Some homeless people had refused the offer of temporary accommodation so the centre stayed open for drop-ins, albeit in a socially distanced way. “We used the garden a lot,” says Joe, “but I’m proud that we never shut our doors. 

“We put people into bubbles so that if someone had to self-isolate, the whole team didn’t have to. The volunteers did an excellent job. We couldn’t have done it without them.”  

But what of the future? John Bier says that the pandemic has accelerated HAB’s strategic planning, “partly because of the extra funding we’ve managed to access but also through developing partnerships and increasing our ability in terms of outreach.”  

He adds: “The Centre will continue, of course, that’s core. But one of the major blocks has been that people would come to HAB; they would be given advice and support, referral to appropriate agencies, and all the practical things like showers, food, clothing and access to medical aid. Yet the core issue was still: I need a home. 

“The pandemic raised awareness of the size of the homelessness problem and highlighted just what an amazing and important job HAB has been doing for years. 

“So now we are sitting in a very positive place in terms of funding and respect and we have the capacity to offer real options to the single homeless through the partnerships we are building. That’s a major step.”

Autumn Newsletter 2021

The Satisfaction of Volunteering

Providing a pathway out of homelessness

Future fundraising

Partnering with Together in Barnet

HAB helps dreams come true

On board with Marian and Sameer