Lockdown – serving those in need in the hotels
When we made the difficult decision to close the Beacon, Ally, Abi and Jaz quickly turned their attention to setting up the community kitchen at the Church of the Apostles with Rev Ellie and reach out to the community. They have been cooking the food needed to feed all our friends who are now housed in hotels across the city. It’s been a mammoth effort from the team along with a number of our volunteers, our van driver Alan and a team of volunteer chefs furloughed from various hotels in the area.
40,000 meals delivered to rough sleepers during Lockdown
The Beacon Team, our volunteers, Feed my City, Reach Out to the Community, the Rev Ellie and Alan and Darren (our delivery team) have now cooked and delivered over 40,000 meals to people experiencing homelessness in Manchester. As the hotels close and people are moving into their own accommodation, we are taking the opportunity to reflect on the last three months and everyone that has made it possible.
Just over three months ago our Beacon drop in centre team were asked to leave behind their old roles and take on a new responsibility none of them had ever expected to be given. When The Greater Manchester Combined Authority housed hundreds of rough sleepers in hotels throughout the cities, the majority the hotels did not have kitchen facilities on site. This required charities to step up to provide this, together with Feed My city, Reach Out to the Community and Rev Ellie Trimble Our Beacon team began cooking hundreds of meals a day to be distributed throughout the city.
Cooking Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for this many people would not have been possible without our super team of volunteer chefs. With their restaurants being closed some super chefs came forward to offer their time and skills to our team free of charge. Their knowledge on large scale food preparation, and cooking has made the community kitchen run incredibly smoothly. We would be lost without them.
The running of the Community Kitchen involved so much more than just cooking our team have had to organise the delivery of tens thousands of ingredients, containers and pieces of equipment. Developing the spreadsheets and planning required was something Ally our Beacon Manager had some experience in from a previous job where she managed deliveries of ingredients, but from the producers to the kitchens.
Finally, Alan our van driver and his friend and volunteer Darren have been working non-stop as couriers driving through the empty lock down streets of Manchester day after day to deliver the meals to the hotels, deliver food parcels to families in need and collect donations.
Thank you to everyone who has made this possible. It has been quite a journey and I’m sure that everyone is looking forward to returning to Bloom Street as we move forward to reopening our Beacon drop in centre, but we will never forget the Spring when we cooked 40,000 meals.
Returning to Outreach
Whilst the call from the Government to bring ‘Everyone In’ was largely a success, we became increasingly concerned for our friends who had either chosen to refuse the offer or who could not cope with going inside, even when it was a lovely hotel room. In response to this we decided to re-start street outreach but in the early mornings. We hoped to find those who were bedded down in the city centre, to give them a drink and a snack, do a welfare check and then to try and engage them with conversation and prayer in the hope that they would chose to take up the hotel offer. Over the last few weeks we have seen at least 6 people take up the offer to get off the streets which has been fantastic. A huge thank you to those volunteers who have joined us in this work.
Big news in the Beacon
Other news we shared on the Zoom call was, rather sadly for us, saying goodbye to our wonderful Alison. We are sad that Alison has decided to move on after the hotel project finishes at the end of the month but equally we are excited for her next steps as she pursues a new season with fresh challenges that lay ahead for her. I am sure you will join me in wishing her all the best for the future.
We are also to announce that our amazing Jazmine has decided now is the time to return to her first love of acting. (Before joining Barnabus, she was one of the stars of Hollyoaks, playing the character Esther Bloom from 2011 to 2018.) Jaz feels now is a good time to re-start things, as with the lockdown it is a much more open arena to get work and to relaunch her acting career. We are sad to say goodbye but equally excited to see what happens next in her career.
We have realised that our service will have to be radically different in the light of COVID 19 and therefore we have had to make the extremely difficult decision to make the roles of Kitchen Supervisor and Evening Door manager redundant. This means we have to say goodbye to Liza and to Chris – both of whom we will dearly miss. Their commitment to Barnabus and to the guys and girls we serve has been amazing and we know that their ministry at Barnabus has been really fruitful. I know you will join with me in wishing them all the best for the future.
The future: Re-opening Barnabus
Because of COVID19 we cannot open the Beacon as a drop in; our building is too small to host so many people in such a small space with social distancing measures in place. We are therefore going to re-open as a support centre where our focus will be on engaging our guests with support work around, benefits, homelessness assessments, access to the NHS, mental health services, recovery groups and more. We will still offer those accessing the building a shower, a pack of clothing (we can no longer operate the clothing store) plus a take away food offer.
With the size of the building we are planning to serve 2 people at a time and we will have an entry system on the front door to allow us to remotely assess people’s eligibility to enter the building. Eligibility will be based on health (no COVID 19 symptoms) on sobriety and on willingness to engage with the new services we are offering (cannot now simply come for a brew and a chat).
Our offer will initially focus on the early morning rough sleeper respite service. We intend to open first thing 7am til 11am to help those most in need. We will serve 2 people at a time with our 45 min appointment system (with a 15 minute clean down between appointments). We will run outreach still at this time and we will initially be bringing people back to engage in the Beacon.
Our whole way of working is going to shift and focus on smaller numbers of guests but we will work more in depth and longer term with each one. In the Beacon Abi and Barry will be taking the role of Engagement workers – working on all those early intervention to help get our guests off the streets. Alongside that Stephen and Jenna will take the role of case workers – taking on people and working with them as they establish a new life away from the streets. We envisage them working with guests over the long term as we work to get them away from the rough sleeping lifestyle they are so used to.
I am sure you will agree this is a huge change for us and for our guests and for you as a volunteer. Initially we will be working on volunteer bubbles. We hope to have set groups of volunteers and staff for each session we run so to minimise chances of spreading COVID 19. We will need 3 volunteers to help in the Beacon and 2 to help on outreach per session.
We are planning to start slowly from mid-July once the changes have been made to the building and all our Perspex and PPE is in place. Initially we will open for 1 or 2 days a week and review how it is going before we attempt anything like a full week.
If you are interested in joining the morning teams then please email me back on email@example.com giving an indication of availability (both in terms of days and also timings, if you are able to do a shift before you go to work at 9am say then please indicate this) and we will arrange the next steps as we look at re opening.
Please be assured we are taking this carefully and slowly to ensure the safety of you as a volunteer, our guests and staff. We are excited though to start this new way of working and to see lives transformed as we walk closely with people as they journey away from homelessness.
We will be in touch regularly over the next few weeks as we take steps towards re opening.
In the meantime do keep following liking and sharing our social media and whilst not everyone can support us by volunteering at the moment there are lots of other ways you can help – check out www.barnabus-manchester.org.uk for more ideas and info.
Thanks for sticking with us in this huge time of change.
Stay safe stay well and do keep in touch
Head of Operations