September 27, 2020
Our priority has always been to provide a home for the 41 young people who live in the hostel. Thanks to colleagues from across the Centre stepping in to maintain 24-hour cover by two staff, residents knew that help was continuously available.
The team did an amazing job in keeping spirits up and providing reassurance, including activities such as cooking meals together, basketball, quizzes and caring for our small but well-loved garden. For families, we moved to an outreach model: we phoned families to check how they were coping and were able to direct them to support. For a small number of families in very difficult circumstances, we opened the family services area for use by one family at a time, providing respite and space for families locked down at home.
We continued to provide advice albeit remotely. Staff and volunteers worked hard to help new and old clients, whether in virtual meetings or in person where absolutely necessary while maintaining a safe social distance. And, since not everyone has regular access to the internet or a phone, we kept the Centre's reception open as a safety net. In the first month of the lockdown 220 people contacted us for advice, among them a family fleeing domestic abuse, a homeless expectant mother and two families struggling to secure overdue funding for disabled children. Our employment specialists spoke on the telephone to people laid off work due to Covid-19 and confused by the benefits system.
In the first weeks the most frequent source of anxiety was the availability of food and family essentials such as nappies. Thanks to the generous response of our supporters, we were able to help more than 200 individuals or families with access to our food bank or with emergency food vouchers, among them 26 immigration clients "nearly all with children" with no recourse to public funds.