Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, Housing Options Advisor, Darren ‘Daz’ Morland, has been at the forefront, ensuring that those who needed emergency housing got the help and support to prevent them from being homeless. There was no option to take a break!
Daz is a housing veteran, having clocked up over 25 years in variety of roles from commercial and finance, to frontline housing. In that time, Daz, 45, has never experienced the swift changes and the need to adapt quickly brought about by the Coronavirus crisis.
During the lockdown period, Daz’s role was to prioritise and rehouse emergency homelessness cases. Part and parcel of the role is meeting with customers in-person, to find a home which is suitable for their needs. With new guidance and safety measures in place, the way Daz carried out this face-to-face aspect of his role dramatically changed.
Daz explains: “During lockdown, I liaised with Halton Borough Council’s ‘Housing Solutions’ Team who provide us with applicants who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. I devised a process which virtually eliminated, and vastly reduced the transmission risk between myself and prospective customers. Before a successful applicant views or signs up for one of our homes, we ask them about their health first before agreeing to a viewing. Once satisfied, I would attend the property with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as sanitiser gel, gloves and a mask. Whilst carrying out viewings or signups also, social distancing was adhered to at all times.”
Getting the keys to a new home is an exciting time for most. Daz says: “The biggest challenge I encountered is reminding expectant customers about adhering to social distancing, especially when you have excitable children running around an empty property. To help support this, I asked families to stand in another room while I carried out the sign-up process.”
As Daz was responsible for the letting of Halton Housing’s homes in both Widnes and Runcorn during lockdown, he had to manage his workload carefully whilst considering his own health. Managing the challenges of the virus risk in his home life, including not being able to see his mum, Daz explains: “The only low for me during the Coronavirus crisis is a personal one. I’ve not been able to see my mum who I’m really close to, and who lives on her own. With the nature of my role in the public domain, even with all the safety precautions in place, I wasn’t prepared to take the risk. She has been totally supportive of me though, and we keep in touch via phone and Whatsapp.”
Daz is a large personality at Halton Housing and truly loves his job. This has intensified during the Coronavirus crisis. “The gratification of resolving a homeless situation is very rewarding anyway, but to deliver it during the Coronavirus crisis is especially gratifying. It’s all worthwhile as clients are so grateful for the extra work we are doing during to make sure we can put a roof over their heads.” says Daz.
As the country slowly returns to the “new normal” and services begin to resume, Daz has some words of advice for those who may be worried about returning to the frontline.
“Don’t worry!! The processes we have in place at Halton Housing to ensure everyone including staff and customers are second to none! I have felt more at ease the longer we have pushed through this period. The key really is social distancing, sanitising your hands, and coughing/sneezing into the arm of your sleeve. Keep on wearing the appropriate PPE which is required for your role, and remember ‘Behaviour breeds Behaviour’, so if a customer sees you calm and confident, then this will also put them at ease!”
For Daz, the response to the Coronavirus crisis has restored his faith in humanity and has been the ‘reset’ the world has needed. “I have treated Covid 19 like a ‘journey’ in my life! Another puzzle in which I and everyone else are part of the solution. I have found that people and communities have rallied and supported eachother in a way that I have never seen before. I think this is the ‘reset’ that the world has needed to be honest, and hopefully people will reflect, change and look forward to a brighter future.”