Homelessness charity RESTART Lives has launched an innovative new service to keep London’s homeless community connected throughout the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing measures.

The service features a ‘Power Up’ Library with free portable chargers and data packs to get phones back online, whilst a Befriender Network of trained volunteers will see practical and emotional support accessible to all by phone.

Access to free Wi-Fi and the ability to plug in and charge a mobile device vanished overnight with the closure of almost all public places where these are readily available. RESTART set out to address this type of ‘power poverty’ that is disproportionately affecting London’s homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Power poverty has made it almost impossible for people experiencing homelessness – from rough sleepers to people in hostel accommodation and housed insecurely – to get online and stay connected to friends, family and support during the current health crisis.

 

Summary of RESTART’s new service:

RESTART has adapted its existing services to offer support differently during this period of increased risk from isolation and further disadvantage for people who are homeless during the Covid-19 lockdown:

  • Recharge with RESTART is plugging the power gap by providing London’s homeless with access to free portable phone chargers – which can be brought back to recharge at its Power-Up Library whenever they visit RESTART at St Cuthbert’s Centre, Earl’s Court.
  • RESTART is offering a lifeline to people experiencing homelessness in London by providing free mobile data packs to get online plus unlimited texts and calls. Reconnect with RESTART will cover costs of staying connected that would otherwise be beyond the reach of most, thanks to goodie bag bundles of data, texts and calls donated to the charity by mobile network GiffGaff.
  • RESTART is maintaining regular contact with guests via its new Befriending Network of volunteers. The focus is on active listening, checking in and offering emotional companionship and support during this challenging period for mental health amongst London’s homeless community.
  • As a direct response to the closure of most similar services in London, RESTART has added a takeaway hot food service on Saturdays and Sundays to the existing weekday one being provided by Refettorio Felix, in collaboration at St Cuthbert’s Centre, Earl’s Court.
  • RESTART is supporting the rough sleepers amongst its guests with their referrals into the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea hotel accommodation scheme for the duration of the lockdown in London.

 

“This type of ‘power poverty’ is a significant problem faced by the homeless community”, said RESTART Lives Chief Executive Nicola Miller. “Face-to-face contact with case workers and online support are being sacrificed where the loss of power sockets to charge a phone and the cost of mobile data to get online or use video conferencing apps are beyond the reach of many experiencing homelessness or housed but living in financial hardship.”

 

“At RESTART, we are concerned that this will see people becoming even more isolated and detached, with impact upon their physical and mental wellbeing.

 

“By pivoting our existing mentoring programme, our Befriender Network will increase feelings of safety, confidence and connection for guests and build trust and rapport at a time when they have told us they feel most vulnerable.”

The charity, which is based in Kensington & Chelsea and supports guests throughout London, is keen to share its experiences with other organisations looking to tackle homelessness and power poverty.

To support the charity’s campaign to fight for power poverty for London’s homeless, visit http://virginmoneygiving.com/fund/fightpowerpoverty

Find us on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram: @restartlives

For further details, please contact: Nicola Miller, Chief Executive, RESTART Lives, email: nicola@restartlives.org