Housing association guides north Leeds community through the lockdown

Young volunteers prepare the VE Day 75th anniversary gift boxes for LJHA residents

The Chief Executive of Leeds Jewish Housing Association (LJHA) has spoken of his pride at the collective effort to support tenants and the wider community in the north of the city through the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

Mark Grandfield, who joined LJHA in May 2018, said his staff and local partners had acted quickly to bind people together in adversity and protect the high proportion of tenants at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 – according to Government health advice – because of age, underlying medical conditions or other reasons.

“All of our tenants were spoken to by staff within seven days of the lockdown being announced in March,” he said.

“Since then, the most vulnerable have been contacted several times each week with some receiving daily calls.

“With so many tenants unable to leave their homes, hot and frozen kosher meals have been delivered to doorsteps in partnership with the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board.

“Staff making personal visits are dressed in full PPE and all regulatory checks in homes have been maintained.

“Support for tenants struggling financially has also been made available through hardship grants, alongside our regular advice service on how to access Universal Credit and Housing Benefit.

“Each of these initiatives have been outlined in frequent letters to tenants and on our website.”

However, as LJHA Director of Operations Craig Simons explained, it has been equally important for the association to keep local spirits up by providing a range of interactive leisure pursuits.

And he said that much of the credit must go to young people across the community.

Craig commented: “Working with The Zone youth club and supported by the Leeds Jewish Representative Council, we built a brand new bespoke website to digitally connect north Leeds community members and friends of all ages via computer, tablet and smartphone.

“The website includes simple instructions on how to sign-up to Zoom, together with details of our ever-expanding selection of online exercise and cookery classes, craft workshops and interactive discussions led by experts in their fields.

“Local theatre star Lucy Sherman gave an impromptu concert in one of our courtyards with tenants watching from their balconies and, on the 75th anniversary of VE Day, young people packed and delivered special boxes for residents containing a full afternoon tea, crosswords, word searches and poems.

“Given the uncertainties about how long the Covid-19 restrictions will last and the likely need for many LJHA tenants to shield for some time yet, we are resolved to continue providing – and improving – the enhanced services on offer.

“These are difficult times but, as far as practicable, LJHA wants to make them fun times too.”

Jayne Wynick, LJHA Chair, said she was gratified at the efforts being made by the association’s staff and the wider community.

She continued: “The LJHA team is renowned for going the extra mile and, supported by local schools and youth groups, each member has lived up to that well-earned reputation once again.

“From a Board perspective, I also acutely aware that our employees also have their own lives to lead and families to look after.

“I was delighted to learn that full staff meetings, which have continued throughout the lockdown, now include quizzes and other fun elements to add a bit of much-needed levity.

“We will get to the other side of this pandemic and, when that day comes, LJHA and the surrounding community in north Leeds can look back in the knowledge that they rose to the challenge.”

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