Local homeless support charity , the 999 Club, has been forced by the pandemic to be offering hot takeaways to homeless people this Christmas, rather than a sit down meal within their centres.
Ezra Odigie, a project worker at the Deptford-based 999 Club, spoke to Eastlondonlines about the support the work they plan to do over Christmas. Odigie told ELL that the club were initially worried that they would not be able to provide takeaways due to the number of Coronavirus cases.
As a project worker, Odigie works in homelessness prevention, which includes rehousing rough sleepers or people in secure housing, assisting with benefits, as well as referrals to other agencies.
Odigie told ELL how the charity’s ability to accommodate the homeless in their night shelter, had been affected by the pandemic: “At the end of March we had a night shelter that supported 25 clients overnight and they were being worked on in move on programmes to move into self-contained permanent properties or into supported housing.”
“The night shelter had to close because the spaces they were sleeping in were far too close together… Our clients were then moved into hotels.”
The 999 Club then shifted their focus to remote work after their day centre had closed shortly after their night shelter. With fewer clients, they were at least able to engage with them individually.
The 999 Club’s day centre has since reopened with a limit of 6 people being allowed in at any time. Rather than serving hot food as they would normally do, they do “small assistance work appointments and food bags.”
One issue that is of concern is the compound effects that winter and Coronavirus will have on homeless people. Due to the cold weather the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol has been issued, meaning that rough sleepers will be prioritised to be put into temporary accommodation.
With the lessening of case numbers, the club has been able to continue with more support work by providing hot food and allowing more people into their premises However, he also expressed concerns that the lessening of restrictions over the Christmas period would lead to a spike in January. “It’s all about hoping for the best but planning for the worst” he added.
While the new Tier 3 rules for London allow the provision of food banks or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, the 999 Club’s ability to interact with and accommodate people will continue to be impacted by restrictions.
Odigie went on to praise the support that the club has received: “Recently we’ve had wonderful support from both funders and local people in terms of food and monetary donations.” He then noted that while it is still easy to find people to donate things such as canned food, in terms of larger donations charities will have to be competitive in the coming year.
However, the 999 Club faced difficulties when it came to the donation of clothes. Because of the Coronavirus, they were only able to accept packaged new clothing which Odigie described as “really unfortunate” explaining that “we’ve had so many offers of second hand clothing, we used to give it out all the time, it was great.”
Odigie said he was trying to be optimistic on how the vaccine will help the homeless and whether homeless people would be included alongside the elderly and vulnerable as priority for the injections.
The list of people prioritised for vaccination appears to defined by age groups, frontline workers, and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals. However, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation does recommend flexibility in vaccine deployment to address “mitigating health inequalities, such as might occur in relation to access to healthcare” as well as “exceptional individualised circumstances.”
For more information on the 999 club visit their website at https://999club.org.