At the end of January the government released new figures showing that, although its ‘Everyone In’ scheme helped many off the streets, and its eviction ban prevented others losing their homes, 70,000 households still faced homelessness during the summer.
The main cause of this was households no longer being able to stay with family and friends (33%), an indication of the scale of hidden homelessness or ‘sofa surfing’ before Covid-19 hit. The loss of a private tenancy (13%) and domestic abuse (12%) were also significant causes.
As the pandemic and its economic and social consequences continue, more households are finding themselves in desperate circumstances. During this third lockdown at the Resource Centre its system of referrals for food from Social Services and other agencies has become unfeasible. Instead staff and volunteers are of the view that anyone who comes asking for food must be in need. Manager Chris Fisher said:
‘Our food bank has remained open from Tuesday to Thursday to give out parcels to those that need help. In January 229 parcels were given, and we have seen more people coming in who have nowhere to live. Some are living in a car, some in the stairwell of a block of flats. Others under the arches in Digbeth. We don’t really get to find out why they are there, they don’t always want to talk about it, so all we can do is give them the sort of food they can eat without having to cook, like crisps, biscuits, snacks, milk and water. We point them in the direction of the Care Centre where they can go for a hot drink, some of Stan and Cameron’s wonderful food and further support. And we hope that through us they might see God’s love for them.
Our thanks go to all of you who have sent in food or money to buy food, without which we wouldn’t be able to help them. The response to our Reverse Advent Calendar food appeal was absolutely tremendous. We had just finished sorting our harvest food and had emptied our store room when boxes started arriving. By the time we had brought them all in the room was full again with some more outside. Even in these difficult times, churches came together to collect for us – we picked up 19 boxes from one church. One man dropped off 3 boxes, and said his children had enjoyed doing them so much that they wanted to do one every month, which is a great idea. My daughter, Sophie, works at Wilson Stuart School. She took in some of the calendars to see if anyone wanted to get involved, and was bringing boxes of food home most days from the teachers, TAs and dinner ladies. So thank you all very much. It really does help to make a difference to people’s lives.’