The Harbour – Providing shelter from the storm

The Harbour offers people in and around Bristol a safe space to talk and be listened to as they face death, dying and bereavement. It provides in-person and virtual counselling for anyone over the age of 18 who has been bereaved or who is facing their own life-threatening illness, or the life-threatening illness of someone they are close to. The therapy supports and empowers individuals, couples and groups with dedicated time and a safe space to think about and address their fears and concerns.

“For the first time, I have felt heard, supported and understood – without fear of judgement.

I have been able, with support, to get through my Mum’s passing, which felt impossible four months ago.”

During the pandemic, the charity saw growing demand for its services, due to an increase in mental and physical health challenges brought on by enforced social isolation and restrictions, as well as the overall fear of Covid. In addition, the pandemic has resulted in an overwhelming number of postponed surgical operations and delays to lifesaving medical treatments, in particular amongst the most marginalised and vulnerable, resulting in greater anxiety and an increased loss of life.

As a counselling service provider, the Harbour is committed to providing a service that everyone in Bristol can access. The charity recognised that some communities were significantly underrepresented within its client base and research suggested that people living in poverty and people from ethnic minority backgrounds were experiencing barriers to access.

The Harbour embarked on a process of operational change to engage underrepresented communities most in need of their services. This included developing relationships with organisations and networks that represent Bristol’s diverse communities and people experiencing deprivation, to increase awareness of the charity.

“I have started to address some grief and build more of a balance in my life.

I’ve been able to enjoy a bit of life and started to feel more optimism and hope. Thank you.”

In February 2021 the Harbour was awarded a grant of £4,100 from SMV to help implement some of these changes. The charity built relationships with several community organisations and worked hard to raise awareness of its services. The Harbour also reviewed and updated its promotional materials to ensure that its front-facing communications were more inclusive.

This operational change has supported The Harbour in delivering 1,505 free-of-charge one-to-one and couples counselling sessions for 249 people when they needed it most. As the government’s Covid guidelines relaxed, the charity resumed its group work, which has included working with Knowle West Health Park, where it has facilitated a bereavement group, increasing much-needed support services in the community.

I feel like I’ve gained hope for dealing with my grief in the future,

and the chance to develop healthier coping mechanisms.”