Remaining open for face-to-face appointments throughout a pandemic has advantages and disadvantages. 15 Queen Street now has a fourth office which doubles up to house the Food from Home Foodbank. At the office, we have 4 caseworkers, a part-time operations manager, and a full-time fundraiser who also takes on housing casework. We are hoping to acquire more rooms soon within the building and, if necessary, find other spaces we can rent.
So, what does a busy day at the office look like?
Last week we had 5 paid staff in and two experienced volunteers. Twenty-nine clients came through the building that day. Managing the space in a covid compliant way is difficult with this volume of people around, but we all do our best, cleaning and preparing the space between clients, avoiding pinch points on the stairs as clients arrive and leave. We also try to book clients in, but there are always people who have urgent needs, and we find time to see them the day they are referred to us.
Amongst the 29 people who came in that day, there were clients who had been on spousal visas and had experienced domestic violence. There were also people who are destitute and rely on us to liaise with solicitors and get a fresh claim, or chase up an existing one, as well as to access the foodbank, and a small amount of money to enable them to survive.
We also have a wonderful volunteer who is experienced in making applications for National Asylum Support. On that day, we had an asylum-seeking family with a young baby, who applied for NASS support at 10am, and did not leave the town until 8pm to go to their initial accommodation in London. Luckily, fellow Queen Street organisation Gems lent us a room for them to wait in.
‘I always feel better when I am here. You make me feel like I am important.’ – a client told us recently
There are appointments in one room for online sessions with therapists, and also English classes. There are also people gathering to get transport to Highwoods to take part in the gardening project. It’s wonderful to be busy and we are often lucky to see people progress and reach positive places in their journey. Your donations and kindness often support what we do with some social media requests being answered within minutes. Our first responders collect people for appointments, drop off food parcels, and keep in touch with families and individuals who can’t make it to the office. All of this means we have a remarkably close team who value each other and work well.
Last but not least, we bought a pair of much needed boots for an older, destitute, asylum seeker with mental capacity issues. We now see him weekly and have built a strong and trusting relationship.