Coronavirus: update from Edinburgh

As part of our regular contact with centres on the Next Meal network, we asked Edinburgh City Mission for an update on their activities during the Covid-19 lockdown. Here’s what they told us.

Our services for people who are experiencing homelessness in Edinburgh are still running.

Maria Reyes, Edinburgh City Mission

The Care Van, our project run in partnership with Bethany Christian Trust, is still providing soup, food, hot drinks, encouragement and advice to up to 50 homeless and vulnerable people a night.

Edinburgh City Mission co-ordinates the evening rotas for 42 teams that are drawn from churches across the Lothians and includes over 750 volunteers. In terms of numbers, they are slowly rising again for the Care Van, from mid-20s before the restrictions to 43 on Monday. 

We are now also running two Soul Food ‘Grab & Go” Take Away Meals, one at City of Edinburgh Methodist Church in Newington, and one at Carrubbers Christian Centre on the High Street. Soul Food has also other partners around the city, all still providing now Take Away Meals in order to adjust to the crisis. In terms of numbers, they have also been increasing. This week in the two meals we run we had nearly 70 people. 

Colin Ramsay, Care Van volunteer

From all of us at Next Meal, a massive thank you to all the staff and volunteers in Edinburgh for keeping things going during these difficult times.

Adapting to Change

Empty supermarket shelf

It’s been a really challenging few weeks for those working to support the hungry, the homeless and the vulnerable across the country. With the coronavirus impacting every aspect of society, soup kitchens, food banks and support centres have found themselves suddenly under-staffed and short on supplies. 

Every centre is different, and all of you have made some tough decisions to protect your visitors, volunteers and staff. Of the 391 sites on Next Meal, many of you have let us know your new situation – thank you. You are helping us to make sure our database is up-to-date and remains a valuable resource. 

We want to take a moment to thank you for everything you do – none of this is easy.

We don’t know what the coming weeks or months will bring. It’s likely we’ll need to adapt many times over. Whatever decision you’ve made for your centre – if you’re wondering how you can still help, or you’re taking this time to reflect and take stock – please keep in touch.   

With everything changing so fast, it’s tough for those managing support centres, so we thought we’d gather together some resources that might help.

Guidance for homeless services

Glasgow homeless person

Whether you’re still open or planning your next steps:

Homeless Link are running a weekly webinar with useful updates. 

Here is a useful list of resources from Healthy London for organisations caring for rough sleepers – this PDF has the main things that you need to know.

Guidance from the Government on how to protect yourself and your visitors from coronavirus.

Groundswell has produced guidance on coronavirus for people who are rough sleeping, translated into Polish and Romanian.

Groundswell poster in Polish

Some joy!

We’ve seen some incredible innovation in how people are helping the most vulnerable. Here are just a few we have seen recently:

The Angel & Crown pub in Richmond pub is serving hot food to the homeless.

Pub serving food to homeless

Charities in Glasgow are teaming up with the Council to provide meal deliveries – and microwaves! – to those in need.

Chefs in Bristol have created a food delivery service for the homeless, aiming to feed 600 people a day.  

Chef preparing takeaway

Arch Healthcare GP in Brighton has been handing out mobile phones to its 1,400 homeless patients.

We can all take heart from the widespread public compassion in action in this time of crisis.

We’re closed, what can I do?

Print and display guidance for your regular visitors outside your centre – these fact sheets from Groundswell are handy and printable.

If you’re still in contact with your visitors, make sure they register with their local council to get support. Here’s Shelter’s guidance on this.

They should also register with the Government and tell them if they need support.

Tell your visitors to check Next Meal for their nearest centre but be sure to call to see if they’re still open.

Next Meal homepage

What else can I do?

Find out what your local council is doing to support the homeless. For example, Southwark Council has a dedicated page for free food services. 

Southwark Council food access advice

Join a community page on Facebook, like this one in Chelmsford, Essex, that have emerged to share support for the vulnerable locally.

Here are some examples of good deeds you could do for your loved ones or your local community.

What should I tell my volunteers?

They could sign up to the London rota to help out at the hotels sheltering homeless people.

If they see a rough sleeper, they can contact StreetLink or inform them that they can use Next Meal to find a soup kitchen near them (adhering to social distancing) – remember to tell them to call first to make sure they’re still open.

They can find local support groups to help out here.

If they wish, they could donate to a charity supporting the homeless, like St Mungos or The Passage.

Share this general advice for volunteers during this time.

Advice for volunteers

Can we ask you a favour?

We want to make sure our listings are as accurate as possible so anyone accessing Next Meal in need of food and support knows which centres are open. If you run a centre please take a look at your listing on Next Meal, and let us know if you are closed, your new hours if you are open, or any other details that need to be updated.

Next Meal centres listing

We would also love to hear your stories. Together, we’ve got a lot of experience – if you have any tips for other centres or you want to share something you’re doing during this crisis, post it on social media with the hashtag #FindYourNextMeal.

To end on a note of hope, we found this uplifting piece on Homelessness Impact – this crisis is tough but we will learn from it and hopefully it will help to bring forward the urgency of our common drive to end homelessness.

Stay healthy, positive, and innovative.

The Next Meal Team

Woman in mask in front of poster saying These Days Will Pass