By Kate Thompson
A unanimous vote to stay open at the outset of the pandemic has placed Lifehouse volunteers at the eye of the storm when it comes to looking after vulnerable people during the pandemic.
They have seen the number of people they regularly feed at their food kitchen and drop-in centre in Albert Road more than double as families face the fallout from COVID-19.
Manager, Mike Morell, explained: “We often see up to 200 people if you include the deliveries we make too.
“Around 25 percent of the people we see are rough sleepers and another 25 percent are people living in temporary accommodation or night shelters.
“The rest are people you might not have expected to see coming to us for help. We have elderly people and young families — some have found themselves suddenly out of work, many used to have jobs in hospitality and some have moved down from London.
“Many people are living close to the edge and death, divorce or the loss of a job can make their lives so much worse — and that’s where we can help.”
Thankfully the weeks before the latest lockdown enabled many people who regularly use the services at the Lifehouse to prepare for the worst of the winter temperatures.
“People were able to pick up warm clothing from us just before Christmas. We had a donation of sleeping bags and tents which was fantastic, but we always welcome more as we are down to the last tent,” said Mike.
He admitted the going had been tough during the pandemic, and the team of volunteers have been putting themselves at risk — five are currently isolating so there are fewer helpers doing more work.
“We have people from all sorts of backgrounds who volunteer with us — everyone from musicians and artists to medics and people who have been rehabilitated themselves.
“We do feel we are doing something positive to help people, and it does put a smile on your face when you see someone get a bedsit or move into a shared house,” said Mike.
Latest news is posted on the Lifehouse website and facebook page. If you would like to donate food or items, there is also an Amazon wishlist https://www.amazon.co.uk/hz/wishlist/ls/2QU0CX3SXZD46
Looking to the future, the team is looking forward to being able to unveil the work that has been going on to create a spacious new dining room and improved facilities for the people who use their services.
“It will mean we can seat up to 60 people and we look forward to being able to provide table service meals in this new setting as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Mike.
To find out more about how you can help the Lifehouse team contact Mike and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations of food and clothing are also welcomed at:
St Margaret’s Church https://www.stmagscc.uk/