Biddy's Blog - Coping with Covid-19
So 2020 has been a strange year for everyone, it has been a year of learning a new language – lockdown, social distancing and furlough to mention a few. Covid-19 has stopped us all in our tracks, but here at Fresh Start we couldn’t stop; people were in desperate need and we had to respond.
It was apparent at the start of lockdown that we would not be able continue delivering Starter Packs and other Core Services to our Core Services User, those moving on from homelessness. With the re-housing process halted and in preparation for lockdown, we met with other local organisations and together established the Covid Foodshare Group, with a focus on food delivery. Fresh Start set up and manned a phone line for local people in North Edinburgh to call if they needed help and processed referrals to partners as well as to our own Emergency Pack project. This allowed us to continue to support the most vulnerable families and individuals in Edinburgh as we temporarily transitioned from providing Starter Packs to Emergency Packs. These packs gave recipients regular access to essential household items and food. Between March and June, we produced and distributed over 5,000 packs to over 300 households. During this time the staff on the phone line provided people with a friendly voice in really difficult times, many people just needed someone to listen to them.
We could not have done this without a considerable amount of support from our funders, corporate supporters and many generous individuals – so to you all, a huge THANK YOU! (You can see the full list on our website).
The immediate impact of lockdown was that the people we work with were struggling to feed not only themselves, but also their families. Feelings of isolation were common, as was the feeling that they were suffocating in their own houses and there was a huge impact on people’s mental health.
As we ease out of lockdown, people’s anxieties remain at an all-time high; with worries about job security coupled with the constant fear of the virus. We are seeing a stark rise in the number of newly unemployed people accessing our services as a direct result of the pandemic.
Our main concern is the long-term impact of people losing their jobs; having to navigate the already overloaded benefits system and the amount of evictions that will start taking place as people cannot pay their rent arrears.
This is coupled with what we already know: that the people we work with have already been living in poverty – financial, social and aspirational. At Fresh Start we have been working on plans to tackle this in North Edinburgh with the development of our Community Hub. We understand we have to tackle financial poverty before we can assist people with increasing their social networks and looking forward to deciding where they want to go with the skills they have.
As we transition out of lockdown, we have fast tracked the opening of our Community Pantry, which offers people memberships at £3.50 per week for approx. £20 worth of shopping. In just four weeks we have amassed 147 members. We have also launched Gardening Hit Squads in North Edinburgh to help people to access outside spaces and chat to their neighbours over the fence.
We are working hard with our partners to develop a visionary plan to ensure we meet the ever-changing needs of local people, as well as making sure we can assist more people moving on from homelessness. We know the coming months are going to be difficult for a great number of people, but we are confident that, working in close collaboration with our partners, we will be able to respond agilely and quickly to whatever comes our way.
Once again, a huge thank you to all our third and statutory partners, funders, corporate sponsors and individuals who have assisted us in the last few months and who we are certain will walk alongside us in the coming months and years’ to build a resilient and cohesive community.