British Asian Christian Association has begun to reduce its homeless provision in Redbridge since the announcement by the Government that the UK lockdown is easing. Already some people who had lost their jobs, as a result of the pressure of the pandemic, have begun to find work, which had reduced the number of visitors requiring our food. Please watch the video below before you read on:
Whereas initially our morning collections had the larger attendance, we found that the numbers of visitors had reduced to around 15 people. With that in mind, and knowing that other homeless support establishments had begun to return to operation, we removed the morning food distribution from our services.
After learning SEVA, a local Sikh Group, were back in operation and providing meals every Tuesday outside Lidl in our Town Centre, we advised our regular visitors to attend their meal drop and have removed that from our timetable. We have now also encouraged a Sunday food drop via another local charity who will now provide food every Sunday at 1.30 on our pitch using our equipment and risk assessment, which means we have removed Sunday evenings from our schedule. We are hoping to add other partners as the weeks persist and more groups return to the field. We now provide an evening foodbank and hot meal every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and numbers of attendees are 40+ every evening.
Our work has expanded to include the sharing of no-longer-wanted-clothes which people have been dropping to our community centre, any surplus that is not collected from our tables after a month will be shipped to Pakistan, to serve deprived Christians there. We sent 13 bags last week.
Our appeals have included requests for furniture so that we could help newly-housed former-homeless friends with more comfortable living areas. So far, we have helped four individuals and believe that these small gifts will help them regain their confidence and will to live.
Our reputation has proceeded us and we have been getting regular visits from Redbridge Outreach officers, who had found many rough sleepers through our work and have re-housed them. In recent weeks we discovered that Alex, a regular at our ‘Meals for the Homeless’ project, had been removed from his temporary home due to bad behaviour, meaning he was sleeping rough again. He asked us for help and one of our volunteers contacted Redbridge. We are also visited by Westminster Drug project weekly who locate those with an addition or in need of counselling and pathways to other services. A representative of Westminster Drug Project spoke with Juliet and explained how amazed he was at the number of people attending our events, and how he has never seen the same level of care for homeless people before. This was of course a real moment of satisfaction for our group and an encouragement for our by now weary volunteers.
Thanks to some grants we have received, we have been able to buy a second-hand American style fridge-freezer. Buying the refrigeration unit however, has meant that we are required to make some building alterations to ensure the fridge has restricted access. We have converted a small area for storage to an extension to our kitchen and are currently building a new large storage space in our main hall.
We have purchased two gazebos and a large Garden Parasol and weights, that now protect us from the sun or rain and help with social distancing, as we can now place tape around the legs preventing people coming too close.
The Gazebo’s do not protect our visitors from the rain however, and to help them cope with recent downpours we bought disposable rain macs to distribute. Our initial advice to them was for them to keep and reuse them, meaning we would only replace those damaged, but it seems like an impossible task to make them understand the need to do this. We would like to buy some more or seek a donor who might be able to provide a large supply. If you can help please look at the contact details or donation link later in this blog post.
We need help from more volunteers willing to help set-up and de-construct our distribution project and more cooks who are either willing to donate meals or cook for us at our community centre. So if you live in East London and can help please do get in touch by emailing email@example.com or call 020 8500 1192.
Our homeless operation has a number of regular costs, including utility costs, petrol costs to collect food from various Tesco and Waitrose stores and to collect hotmeals from various donors. We have costs for plastic food boxes, for sanitisation, cleaning and other products and equipment such as masks, rain macs etc. We would also like to raise funds for at least one permanent worker for this project as many of our volunteers are now returning to work. If you have a desire to help you can donate (here) please reference the donation as ‘Love for the Homeless’.
Each waterproof mac costs £1 each.