United keeping tenants connected during pandemic

United Housing Cooperative has a mixed cohort of tenants, including family violence victim survivors, elderly tenants, Horn of Africa refugees and people with mental health issues, which has led it to take a multi-pronged approach to maintaining a connection during the pandemic.

United CEO Peter Sibly says checking in on vulnerable tenants via regular calls to an emergency phone tree has been working well.

‘We have set up a Zoom social club session on Fridays. A tenant member kicks it off with talking about the news and they just knit or crochet and have a chat. It’s been going for a couple of hours and provides an opportunity to chat – the craft takes the pressure off if there’s silence.’

‘We have also set up a Facebook group that is for tenant’s only – staff aren’t allowed on it,’ he says.

‘The most recent thing that we have been doing is we got 50 food parcels that the Lifecycle Trust donated, and on Monday we delivered them to our older members with a nice card.’

With their general meeting slated for May 28, the cooperative is also offering Zoom training for members so they can participate in the online meeting.

‘Some don’t have IT, or IT skills, which is a problem. Most everyone has a phone, but some are really old. One of our members has been fixing up old laptops and we are looking at ways we could provide some to members who need them.’

Peter says members have been appreciative of the cooperative’s efforts at this time.

‘We are in the middle of doing a SurveyMonkey for our strategic plan but a lot of people have commented in the survey that they appreciate we go out of our way to do more than just provide housing.’