With the end of 2020 in sight it is time to reflect on this rollercoaster of a year. Covid has meant we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of doing things. Through it all we’ve been totally overwhelmed with the incredible amount of support and good will from our partners and local community.
At the start of the first national lockdown, Cheshire West & Chester Council followed the Government call to bring ‘Everybody In’ – and hotel accommodation was reserved for everybody who was homeless in CWaC. This meant that….nobody was left out on the streets and everybody was given temporary hotel accommodation. As lockdown progressed the number of people accessing this support increased as more people lost their homes, and marital and relationship breakdowns meant people were becoming homeless. Having a secure place to stay during the pandemic was paramount, particulaly for the rough sleepers, many of whom suffer from long term health issues such as COPD due to a life on the streets.
Whillst getting people off the streets and into safe, secure accommodation was a hugely welcome step, many of the accommodations had no kitchen facilities available to residents and as the Drop In Centres who previously provided food (including Soul Kitchen) were closed we were left with the question: How to feed all these people now staying in hotels?
At the height of the pandemic there were over 200 people in temporary accommodation so a lot of mouths to feed – Soul Kitchen quickly applied for a number of emergency grants and were able to arrange and co-ordinate the feeding of those in temporary accommodation with a hot meal each day, seven days a week. Meals were cooked by restaurants, church groups, donations from local businesses and co ordinated and delivered by the team at Soul Kitchen. We estimate that we have delivered well over 20,000 meals.
At the end of lockdown, CWaC promised that there would be no closing of the hotels and putting people back onto the street and today there still remain approximately 160 people in temporary accommodation – and we are still feeding them
As we are still unable to open Campbell Hall as a Drop In facility on a Saturday evening, we are now operating a takeaway service, with hot meals as well as clothing, toiletries and advice being available.
As well as providing hot meals to those in temporary accommodation, we are also providing clothing and emotional support. Thanks to our network of supporters we are also able to provide donated items to help people get set up in their own homes and we also purchase kitchenware, microwaves, toasters, kettles and bedding. To date we have helped 13 people move into their new homes. This ‘move on’ support will continue for as long as it’s needed.
We are already thinking about Christmas and reluctantly accept that we won’t be able to hold our traditional dinner with all the trimmings together this year. Instead, we will be delivering either hot or microwavable Christmas Meal parcels on Christmas Day to those in temporary accommodation across Chester and Ellesmere Port and will supply food and sweet treats to those in hostel accommodation. Our takeaway service will be operating as usual on Saturday 26th December. As always, it is our incredible network of supporters who make this possible and of course our dedicated team of volunteers who will once again be spreading some festive cheer!
This year has thrown us so many challenges but has truly shown us what we can achieve when we work together.