I last wrote for the newsletter in June when lockdown was easing and we were planning to re-open some Connection services back at Adelaide Street. Here we are in October having just entered the next phase of pandemic restrictions. At the beginning we were told “it’s a marathon not a sprint” and I wonder how many of us are feeling the strain.

I am by nature quite glass-half-full. Many of the Connection’s clients have done well in stable hotel accommodation and have moved into a more permanent home. Their pre-pandemic patterns of life were disrupted out of all recognition and this has created the conditions for change they needed. I wish it hadn’t taken such seismic circumstances but I recognise the silver linings of the pandemic where I can.

We will not be asking our clients to return to their pre-pandemic life when this is all over. Neither will The Connection. Since July, we have re-established services under very different circumstances. Practical help is in place for 20 clients at a time in two sessions a day, we are seeing new rough sleepers and we continue to provide support remotely. Our street outreach team know of more than 100 people who need our help. Our emergency accommodation service recommences this week, based in a hotel and our supported accommodation in Clapham continues as normal.

The 2012 Olympics was full of both marathons and sprints. It was a joyful time and it was easy to feel the positive effects of this huge international event. Another aspect of the Olympics was the emphasis on legacy – not least the spray painted letter boxes in the home towns of gold medallists. It’s been a difficult and painful time across the whole St Martins site. However, we do have the certainty that this will end eventually. Just because the Pandemic is pretty awful on all fronts, it doesn’t mean we should discount the possibility of a positive and lasting legacy.

We have made difficult decisions at the Connection and it will take us time to recover. We have chosen a direction of travel to work with rough sleepers with complex needs. For us, the legacy of the Pandemic is not a gold letter box but it is the opportunity to refocus our efforts to do the best job we possibly can for rough sleepers in central London. That gives us a lot to be positive about.

Pam Orchard