Day services in Oxford are providing food and essential items to more than 100 homeless and vulnerably housed people every day – despite the coronavirus lockdown.
The Porch day centre is offering a food take away service seven days a week even though its other activities have been suspended. People can collect food from 139 Magdalen Road between 12pm and 2pm seven days a week.
Since Monday (30 March) The Porch has also been running a new mobile delivery service to people in supported accommodation and on the streets.
On 26 March the government directed councils to provide self-contained accommodation for everyone experiencing rough sleeping and living in shared hostel spaces. The council has already leased more than 100 hotel rooms for this purpose and has made separate arrangements to provide food and essential items to people self-isolating in hotels.
However, some people have refused offers of accommodation and there continue to be people new to rough sleeping who have not yet been accommodated.
People still on the streets can collect hot food and essential items from Bonn Square from 12pm to 2pm. The Porch is also delivering to its members and other people in supported accommodation across the city from 2pm to 6pm.
This combination of collection and delivery means that more than 100 people continue to get help every day. On Thursday (2 April) 40 people attended The Porch in person, 44 received deliveries and 22 people collected food from Bonn Square – three of these were still sleeping rough despite being offered accommodation.
Measures allowing people to practise social distancing are in place for both collection and delivery.
The Porch has been joined by volunteers from Oxford’s other day services to help it provide the new outreach service.
How you can help
The Porch has launched a £20,000 COVID-19 Response Fund to allow it to provide services during the coronavirus outbreak. This will pay for personal protective equipment, guidance and training, first aid kits, disposable catering containers and utensils, flasks, thermal bags and dignity packs for female members.
You can donate to the Response Fund.
The Porch is also looking for more volunteers to help deliver the new outreach service. You can sign up by calling 01865 251798 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
“Nobody deserves to be left behind during the coronavirus emergency just because they’re homeless, and our new collection and delivery service is already helping more than 100 people every day. Our volunteers have been joined by people from other day services and I’d like to thank them all for their dedication and hard work in taking on the virus. If you’d like to join our fight, we’re looking for new volunteers and you can also donate to our COVID-19 Response Fund on Justgiving.”
Jon Fitzpatrick, director of The Porch day centre
“The coronavirus outbreak means we’re all having to find new ways to do things and I’m grateful to The Porch and people in other day services for stepping up to keep helping homeless people. What they do takes real compassion, empathy and strength. I wish them every success and hope the many people in Oxford who want to do something to help end homelessness can get behind their efforts and support The Porch.”
Councillor Linda Smith, deputy leader and cabinet member for leisure and housing
Temporary closure of other services
To ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and people using services, other day services are now temporarily closed. The Gatehouse closed its food and drink takeaway service on Wednesday 25 March and Homeless Oxfordshire closed day services at O’Hanlon House last Friday (27 March).
Until recently government guidance was for hostels and day centres to remain open. Public Health England has withdrawn this guidance and is in the process of updating it.