October
20
2020
Author
Richard Wilson
Korban supported housing project

One of the pleasures of writing about social action projects is hearing the heart and motivation of those involved in them. Mark Wood, who participated in one of our summer Zoom meetings, speaks enthusiastically about the Colchester Korban Project which he has been leading for just over 3 years.

Having its origins in a Night Stop project – providing young homeless people with a few nights’ accommodation in the homes of Christian host families – Korban in its current form began in 2008, when a vacant Anglican vicarage became available. This allowed longer term provision in a small supported-housing project for homeless people aged 16-25.

The website, https://www.korban.org.uk, states that nearly half of people living in supported accommodation are aged 16-24. Young people have been hit hard by reductions to youth services and welfare reform over the last few years, and need assistance with accommodation now more than ever.

The former vicarage is now the ‘hub house’ providing a shared space for five residents. It operates in conjunction with a second, three-bedroom, house that provides move-on space for those who are more independent.

Since 2008 the project has provided a safe space with low/medium support for 130 young adults who do not require 24-hour care. The aim is to help residents realise their potential and thrive. It does this first by providing safe accommodation, and then by giving support and guidance to enable residents to develop the character, skills and confidence to live independently. The support involves budgeting, life-skills and self-care, helping residents with their mental and emotional health as well as helping them move into education, training or work. To this end, each resident receives one hour of planned support each week plus any extra help needed, which may include help with drug or alcohol misuse. In the main house the residents live together and share a communal meal every week on a Thursday evening, which some help to cook.

Many social action projects have had to respond quickly to the changes brought about by COVID-19 – especially the lockdown – and for those with only a small staff, like Korban, this has been a challenging time. One resident in the shared house contracted the virus, so a careful cleaning regime had to be introduced, meals provided for that resident separately and a bathroom designated for their use only.  During lockdown the staff team was able to continue to actively support the residents, made easier as they live as two separate households with minimal staff crossover. Staff have learned to conduct the regular support meetings with residents under social distancing ‘rules’ – the good summer weather allowed many meetings and the hub house communal meal to continue outside in the vicarage garden.

Mark comments that the staff’s main concern during lockdown has been more about the residents’ mental health than just their physical needs. This is particularly true of residents who would normally choose to spend most of their days away from the house and who suddenly became more confined. Social activities, including gardening and helping residents to paint their own rooms, have helped. Korban try to give their residents “a healing experience of family” and this has been especially important during the pandemic.

The project is part of the joint referral panel chaired by the local council, and even during this uncertain period one resident has been able to move on into permanent accommodation.

The original Christian ethos, and the fact that all of the current team are Christians, allows spiritual input at meal time and in support meetings, which residents have particularly engaged with during lockdown.

Korban are really thankful to God for sustaining the team and residents throughout lockdown.


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