Christians and churches in Weston super Mare have been working together to support the homeless and those in poverty during the coronavirus crisis. Groups already stretched, have been placed under increasing pressure because of the pandemic, but have found new and innovative ways to help those in need.
In 2019 Government statistics revealed that nine areas in Weston super Mare had were among the most deprived in England. The town relies heavily on the tourist trade and the hospitality industry for employment, both areas have been badly hit by coronavirus restrictions, leaving many without work. As a result, Weston is expecting a new wave of homeless.
In an unusual move the charity Somewhere to Go has designed and built 18 individual pods for the homeless, to provide a safe and warm place to stay; somewhere they can leave their belongings, clean their clothes and get a shower. Alongside this, on-site advisors will provide help with housing, benefits and healthcare. Barry Edwards from Somewhere to Go, says this is a step towards getting people back on their feet.
“It will provide people with dignity, privacy and wellbeing, because if you are in a dormitory, you don’t get any privacy, and dignity and your wellbeing starts to deteriorate. We want this to be a stop gap, a way out of rough sleeping.”
Just round the corner is Weston Foodbank, during the coronavirus crisis, it saw a 98 per cent rise in the number of families with children using their service and it’s not anticipating that demand reducing soon. Frederique Wigmore is the Foodbank’s manager.
“I don’t think we’ll ever forget that first Friday in lockdown, after the schools closed and we served in four hours 61 parcels of food. Most of them were families, so that was over 200 people who got help in the first four hours. It was just relentless, at Christmas when we are really busy, we might do 30 parcels. So, in that one day we had done 4% of our normal year.”
The Foodbank has been inundated with donations from local shops, supermarkets and even local gardeners who have donated their excess produce. The extra demand and the need for more supplies has meant the foodbank has had to find new warehouse storage and extra staff to man it.