Govanhill Community Development Trust is a wholly owned subsidiary of Govanhill Housing Association. The Association provides housing for over 2,700 families and factoring services for a further 1,400. Our organisations therefore have a direct relationship with half of Govanhill’s households.
Govanhill is Scotland’s most diverse neighbourhood, with a high proportion of ethnic minority residents, including around 4,000 Roma people from Eastern and Central Europe and other settled migrant groups. Over 80 languages are spoken in our community. Evidence has shown that BME individuals are most at risk from COVID-19 with higher death rates as a result of social, economic and health inequalities. Govanhill is also Scotland’s most densely populated neighbourhood with high levels of deprivation in relation to income, employment, health and housing. As such, the Govanhill community was especially vulnerable to the effects of this crisis.
Govanhill Community Development Trust staff worked extremely hard before and after lockdown to mitigate the impact of the crisis as much as possible and support those immediately affected. Face to face meetings and normal communication platforms were quickly abandoned in favour of social media, messaging and video calls. We also used multilingual videos to share accurate information in a form appropriate to our services users. As a team we have used Microsoft Teams, videoconferencing and multiple new forms of online collaboration.
Govanhill is also home to a fantastic array of innovative and dynamic third sector organisations, working to support the local community. We have led the local voluntary sector response, by coordinating those organisations into working groups looking at issues and partnership in relation to Mental Health, Communications, Youth, Logistics, Food and Creative activities. This has been possible through our dedicated Community Connector, funded through Glasgow City Council’s Thriving Places initiative, a community regeneration programme tasked at improving partnership within the voluntary sector and improved access of third sector supports by local people.
GCDT staff have also secured £220k of additional emergency relief funding. This has been used to provide a budget for the activities of the working groups which we have established, ensuring resources are targeted without duplication. We have also been able to offer ‘Express Grants’ of up to £2,000 to local organisations to resource their own crisis responses and establish a counselling service.
A vast amount of work has been undertaken by staff, volunteers and local people. It is difficult to summarise everything within a short update without leaving out some of the many ways in which people have come together to help each other. Some of the work that GCDT has done has included:
- Setting up a Mutual Aid Facebook group, to signpost people to support services, and connect people with others in the local area who can offer help and support. This has also included setting up a Romanian Language group with support from Romanian speaking staff.
- Putting together videos in Romanian and Slovak to explain to explain lockdown rules, ways to keep safe and what current services levels are for local organisations.
- Establishing a multilingual support phonelines offering help in English, Slovak, Romanian and Urdu/Punjabi.
- Establishing an online support request form and process to provide help via local organisations.
- Producing a physical directory of crisis services which has been delivered to every household within the Govanhill area.
- Supporting the distribution of food from foodbanks to those who are unable to leave home and in need.
- Supporting local families with household items, clothing, family learning packs and activities.
- Providing a dedicated support service for local Roma people, who have been affected most deeply by the crisis. We have provided around 5,000 instances of support to Roma people in recent times in relation to housing, education, employment, welfare rights, practical matters and travel arrangements. We have supported 6 families to organise funerals and we have repatriated 5 bodies to Romania after COVID-19 deaths.
- Establishing a Roma counselling services with multilingual counselling via telephone and video calls.
- Establishing a community distribution hub
- Hosting a community response officer tackling food insecurity and looking at developing a more sustainable local food supply chain
Govanhill Housing Association has also continued to offer its basic services, with new services coming online as the lockdown eases. We have also been contacting older and more vulnerable tenants as well as arranging emergency food or other supports as required. The Association’s focus is now on its business continuity and the safety of staff, tenants and others who engage with our services.
Govanhill Housing Association and Community Development Trust have shown what can be achieved through the leadership of effective community anchor organisations. As well as providing vitally needed services, we have coordinated the local response and secured additional resources to support activities on the ground. We have helped families at their lowest moments and have kept local people safe and supported through this first phase of the pandemic. We will continue to do so and adapt our provision through whatever the coming months hold.
(Update provided by Govanhill Housing Association)