Since reopening from the lockdown at the beginning of June, we have seen a steady flow of service users visit the Drop-in every Wednesday and Friday. We started off with about 12 people a day; most of these were Polish in accommodation, either placed in hotels or hostels when the lockdown began, or those who had been working and subsequently laid off. We were seeing a few who were homeless, and we were able to refer them to Merton Council’s outreach team.
More recently, we have been seeing more than 20 service users in a day; about half have appointments and half are rough sleepers. So we are now providing 10 showers a day and giving out 20 packed lunches. We have a small number of kitchen volunteers who come in to make sandwiches and prepare the lunch packs.
The Drop-in team regularly reviews our Covid policy, ensuring everyone observes social distancing, as well as hand washing and the wearing of masks. For the most part, service users are very cooperative, although exuberance – and sometimes alcohol – does mean that we have to intervene on occasion.
We have been able to report a number of rough sleepers to Streetlink, so that they can be located sleeping rough at night and then placed in accommodation by Merton Council. We had two young men in September, who clearly had mental health issues and were very vulnerable. We were able to support them and we paid for their fares to return to accommodation to Woking and Brighton.
Going forward, we will continue to monitor numbers attending, and ensure that we are able to keep everyone socially distanced. Where necessary, we will limit the number of service users by limiting the time people can stay in the building, and by making use of the church room. Because we can’t increase the number of people in the Drop-in, we will have to operate as we are for the immediate future, especially in light of the current rising Covid infection rate.
Our friends at St Mungo’s are working hard to house people placed in hotels during the pandemic. Although the date for closing the hotels has already been put back several times, that time will come, and when the government’s furlough scheme closes we have additional concerns that this will lead to other people losing their accommodation. So unfortunately, we anticipate a busy Autumn and Winter ahead for the Faith in Action team.
Annual General Meeting and Open Evening
The Trustees have decided to delay this year’s AGM and Open Evening, usually held in the Autumn, to January or February 2021. Almost certainly it will be a virtual event, held via Zoom. All our supporters will be very welcome to join us – more details will be published before Christmas.