Dull year everyone?
As we approach Christmas its time to both look back, and forwards to what 2021 might bring. Some respite perhaps, for everyone, from the horrible damage covid-19 is doing to our economy, to unemployment, to everyone’s mental health, and most of all, to people’s health as we remember the many thousands who have died or are suffering loss or the ill effects of having had the virus.
Like so many charities and social enterprises, Hope has suffered its own hurt from the virus: far greater demand for our foodclub services; a changing picture of demand for homelessness support; an inability to trade or operate as before, and the need to restructure what we do as a result.
I have been describing the changes to our many followers on this site so most of this is already news.
In homelessness good news, the fact is that there are far less people sleeping rough since covid hit, with increased funding for housing. There are possibly no more than 15 people, although there are far more who sofa surf. This reduction is great news, but it is only the start of the story. Being housed is the beginning, not the end of the journey of rough sleepers, and Hope is an agency that works not just at street level giving out food, but right through to the point when people get a job and leave supported housing. We are much more than basic charity. We still provide comprehensive basic services for those on the street: food, shelter, clothes, showers and support with benefits, bank accounts and access to housing, but we are much much more than that. On its own, this only alleviates immediate distress: welcome, yes, but only a tiny part of the long journey of support a person needs. Increasingly, in 2021, the bulk of our work on homelessness will be at that stage of the journey,helping people move on, thrive in new housing, move towards employability, through things like our Learning 4 Living service (see here), although we will never forget the first stages too. That’s where we started after all. Increasingly over time we will also offer advice and support to wider groups of people in housing need, including families.
The other point to make is that Hope is not, nor has been for many years, just concerned with homelessness. Hope meets the needs of a huge diversity of need, whether that is broader poverty, mental health, addiction or general, multiple disadvantage. Our Learning 4 Living, Foodclub, and social enterprises are targetted at the far greater level of need found there. We feed around 700 people a week now, 675 of whom are not homeless (although perhaps 70 previously were). The demand for these services from people not homeless is growing exponentially: that is now the bulk of our work.
So, 2021 will be year of recovery, rehabilitation, renewal… we hope. We are positioned more strongly than ever, through our fantastic board, staff, volunteers and supporters – you, the readers – to be around for those 700 (and growing) army of people we help. We work immensly hard, without much reward, sometimes even under pointless and unhelpful attack, to keep on helping the most vulnerable, and I pay tribute to my team, and to you, for everything they and you do.