A coronavirus fund grant has helped Swindon Night Shelter feed not only rough sleepers, but also hungry schoolchildren and families plunged into poverty.
The 12-year-old charity, based at The Haven in Queen’s Drive, has had to expand its operation after being approached by more than 20 agencies in the town needing food parcels.
“We have been serving schools, women’s refuges, families referred by social services and many more,” said operations manager Dan Read. “We weren’t doing any of this before and it has been absolutely fantastic to have been able to help at this time.”
It has been helped to do so with a £10,000 grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund, set up to help groups tackle the effects of the pandemic. It has now raised more than £848,315 and distributed more than £550,000 to 150 groups.
The extra food provision during the crisis could well become permanent, said Mr Read. “Now that things that are gradually being relaxed, the challenge we have got is how we serve those groups to the very best of our ability. I am conscious that it is not as easy as just drawing a line under our current support. We have to work out how we serve our core guests, and if we can continue to support some of these agencies, such as Safe Families or the Nelson Trust,” he said.
“We are talking to the agencies to identify how the people we are helping now would normally get that food and that will give us an idea of what need might be left and whether we can pick that up.”
Swindon Night Shelter began the lockdown providing fresh food parcels from supermarket donations to rough sleepers and those in need who usually attended the day centre, night shelter or other aspects of the ministry. The Swindon Night Shelter has an active caseload of over 200 people, around 60 per cent of are still in need of ongoing support. But gradually Swindon Borough Council’s social services team and other agencies began asking the shelter to provide food to others as well, including schools and women’s refuges.
The charity already has links to local schools because of the community cafés it runs in partnership with them. Some schools have linked directly to Swindon Night Shelter having identified families in need of food provision.
“The sad reality of it at some of the schools that we have been supporting there were children who were relying on the free meals they were receiving,” said Mr Read.
Many of the families the group is helping would have been able to eat at its low-cost community cafes, which serve food donated by supermarkets and are staffed by former rough sleepers to help them get back into employment.
Mr Read only began with the charity in April after being given a year’s career break from Nationwide, where he worked in the financial crime department for 11 years.
“The grant has been a real blessing and has given us a great platform to plan for the future, I am very keen to build consistency in the interaction with guests through our support workers who will deliver a new and much varied mentoring plan. We’ve been able to employ one support worker already and I’m really excited to start to put more of those people into place,” he said.
“People in Swindon are privileged to have some fantastic agencies with a real heart for those experiencing homelessness and poverty. We look forward to continuing and hopefully further improving collaborative working with those and other agencies, to continue tackling homelessness”
“This has been a challenging time but one where we have been afforded time to re-evaluate, and thanks to the generous support of donors such as Wiltshire Community Foundation we are excited about how we can continue to serve the community here in Swindon.”
Find out more about the group at swindonnightshelter.uk.
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.