Fitness classes for homeless people opens to public after charity founder bounces back from covid-19
Michelle Reilly, who set up Street Fit Scotland while working in a hostel in 2014, was floored by covid-19 then pleurisy for a month just after lockdown in March. The 37-year-old feared her health and fitness programme would go to the wall.But instead the charity, which runs free outdoor boot camps for rough sleepers and those living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation, is ramping up its programme and launching a new running group – open to anyone in the Capital.Ms Reilly, who shared the stage with Dame Kelly Homes MBE at a wellbeing festival this year as the athlete talked about her battles with depression, has now been awarded £40,000 by NHS and ECC for two years.Over forty people are put through their paces every week at outdoor boot camps and online sessions led by Michelle and a range of coaches. The cash will mean SFS can support more people, including those recovering from addictions.Ms Reilly, who experienced homelessness as a teenager, was terrified when she struggled to get out of bed after getting the virus and a severe chest infection. But when she found out that two people in her group had attempted suicide during lockdown, she pushed herself to get back on her feet.She said: “I was so scared about what could happen to everyone if I wasn’t there. Lockdown was hard for the group. I had my phone on 24/7 on high suicide alert. If you’re stuck in a B&B it’s not always a positive place, we help get them out. We can’t just leave people to rot. Some people in hostels or temp accommodation are terrified, it can be chaotic.””People in the group have problems but Street Fit gives them access to something fun that they can do at their own pace and they don’t feel judged. They can come in feeling rubbish and leave buzzing,”The 37-year-old lost her younger brother and cousin to suicide and addiction. She said it hit her after lockdown that physical activity and the peer-led, group support was going to be even more vital in covid-19 times, especially for those already struggling with their mental health.”Two of the group tried to take their life during lockdown. It’s heart-breaking. My cousin was always in crisis and never had consistent support. That was one of the catalysts for me, to recognise there is not enough support for mental health.””Some of the group really struggled and some still are. They will feel like that again. I think we are going to see a big wave of mental health problems. What we are doing with outdoor boot camps, the online sessions and the new walking groups gives them a coping strategy. I can see it helping to build their resilience. Behaviour does change over time, given a chance. They are helping each other through hard times.”Members now get access to phone counselling and the charity has delivered tablets for everyone to make sure
JERUSALEM — When the elderly father of an ultra-Orthodox radio personality in Israel contracted the coronavirus recently, his family dreaded the prospect of his entering an isolated hospital ward and possibly never coming out.
So the broadcaster made a round of calls that turned up an alternative.
A small charity was offering an under-the-radar service treating mostly ultra-Orthodox and older Covid-19 patients in their homes, even in severe cases where health experts say it could endanger lives. Drawing on the services of a few doctors — and dozens of volunteers, most without medical training — it was operating out of a basement in Mea Shearim, a Jerusalem stronghold of the most extreme anti-Zionist Jewish sects that shun cooperation with the state.
Hundreds had already turned to the charity for care out of a sense that remaining with family — and avoiding public hospitals — outweighed the risks. But the project was also tinged with a general distrust of government among the ultra-Orthodox community, which appears to be increasingly going it alone in handling the pandemic and many other aspects of daily life.
Since the home-care initiative was reported by Israel’s N12 news service this week, health officials and experts have responded with a mix of condemnation and curiosity. One leading epidemiologist was among those who said the approach could help ease the burden on hospitals.
The debate comes as Israel is under its second national lockdown after daily infection and death rates soared to among the highest in the world, and ultra-Orthodox areas top the virus hot spots. Health officials say that about 50 percent of those aged over 65 and under 18 who are infected in Israel are from the ultra-Orthodox community, though it makes up no more than 13 percent of the country’s nine million citizens.
And the actual infection numbers may be even higher: The charity does not report coronavirus cases to the authorities, which may be skewing the national virus data on which policymakers base their decisions.
Dr. Sharon Elrai-Price, a senior Health Ministry official, denounced the operation as a “dangerous” departure and said the ministry was looking into the legality of some aspects of it.
Dr. Ran Balicer, an Israeli health care official who advises the government on the pandemic, called the charity “a gamble.” A coronavirus patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly, he said, adding it was “hard to predict a moment of no return for people who might have survived had they reached the hospital in time.”
But Dr. Gabriel Barbash, a leading Israeli professor of epidemiology, is among those who view the charity’s approach as a possible way to ease the load on hospitals and worthy of further study. Other advocates insist that even in severe cases, a calm home environment can aid recovery.
Yitzhak Markovitz, a member of a small Hasidic sect, started the at-home care service about six months ago through his charity, Hasdei Amram. He said his patients generally avoided taking government Covid-19 tests to evade official attention and pressure