Has this impacted our work?
The short answer is yes, but we are still very much working and the need is even greater than ever. As lockdown closed in and the government said “everyone in” we have worked tirelessly with Rugby Borough Council to make sure all our homeless clients are housed and safe. The council have provided and paid for accommodation for all those who are homeless in Rugby – for that we commend and thank them. The Hope Centre has had to close, but staff are working from home and as busy as ever carrying out regular welfare checks on clients by phone, face to face (at a distance!) if needed and ensuring they have food etc. Staff are also making sure everyone knows what the guidelines are, and what that really means in practice. Guidance is even being translated into Polish and Russian for our clients. More information about Covid-19 and homelessness can be found on these Homeless Link pages.
Rugby Foodbank had just moved into new premises as lockdown started to develop. With the age and health issues of many of our volunteers they simply could no longer volunteer, demand for food shot through the roof and social distancing in small rooms in the building made it very difficult to just carry on. Fortunately the council stepped in and have been running the operation with a small dedicated staff team. The number of people needing food bank help is still really high – over 50% more than normal, but at the moment there is enough food being donated. Our office staff have very much been supporting the council and our partner agencies to ensure the food bank remains open.
We are engaging in conversations at a national level to see how the sector can move forward safely as we all take this opportunity to pause and reassess the what, why and hows. Moving forward we are now looking at how we open up the Centre in a safe, controlled way and what services will be provided by staff and partner agencies. The Centre layout is being remodelled and extra equipment is being purchased to ensure staff, volunteer and clients are as safe as possible. Volunteers will of course come back and join us as soon as we know how it can all work safely. This too goes for the food bank and we are making a plan with the council to take back the food bank operation permanently and have our own volunteer cohort working safely in the new building from the end of June.
Coupled with all this we know that homelessness is on the rise nationally and we sadly expect to be busier than ever this year. This is true nationally for food banks too – food poverty and food insecurity will rise as the country heads into a recession with job losses and evictions.
That is where we need your help – join us in keeping our services going as we work with you to end homelessness and food poverty in Rugby.