Due to the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Government restrictions/lockdowns we were unable to offer our usual overnight accommodation (dormitory-style in church halls) for our local homeless community during winter 2020-21. However, we worked closely with Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) who endeavoured to ensure that everyone was kept safe and off the streets throughout the pandemic.
We continued to support those most in need in our community with the provision of home-cooked meals and food parcels. In total we distributed over 1550 home cooked meals. For further information on this support, please see below.
MEAL PROVISION FOR WINTER 2020-21
Once it became clear that we wouldn't be able to offer our usual overnight accommodation during Winter 2020-21, we worked closely with Maidstone Borough Council and offered to provide a hot, sit down meal each evening for those people who had been placed in temporary accommodation or rooms. This would have ensured that our guests could gather together for daily food, company, support and a chat. However, the ongoing pandemic restrictions made this impossible. We therefore changed our plans and decided the safest way forward was to offer hot, home-cooked takeaway meals instead.
With the support of local churches and a few of our 'home cook' volunteers, we were able to offer our meals as a drop-in service on Monday & Wednesday afternoons each week, from Union Street Methodist Church. At these sessions, we also offered additional meals to take away for other days plus food parcels for essential items, so that nobody should be left hungry.
In addition to this, we offered our home-cooked meals from The Salvation Army Food banks on Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons, with the aim of reaching a larger number of people in need. Our meals were handed out with the usual food parcels distributed by The Salvation Army.
The need for food was far greater than we had anticipated, due to the impact of the pandemic and the fact that so many people were on furlough or had lost their jobs/homes. In total, we distributed over 1550 home cooked meals (dinners AND puddings).
Our home-cooked takeaway meals service ran from Monday 04 January 2021 until, and including, Friday 26th March 2021.
Throughout this time we continued to work closely with Maidstone Borough Council and especially with the Outreach Team, to ensure there was a joined-up approach to assisting Rough Sleepers and Homeless in the town.
We ensured that all work was undertaken within the Covid guidelines to ensure that, between us and MBC, we were able to help those most in need.
HELP OUT TO EAT OUT
Homeless charities across the UK warned that rough sleepers faced a 'double threat' of coronavirus and cold weather throughout the last winter and there were increasing difficulties in mitigating these threats with lockdown restrictions in place.
Despite these challenges, the Council Housing teams along with community partners worked incredibly hard during the pandemic. They helped more people find homes than ever before, dealing with 1231 new housing register applications which led to the register growing by 34%.
Also, a further 600 households who had found themselves at risk of homelessness or actually homeless were supported by the Housing Advice Service.
Council Housing support helps the homeless survive the winter, but the experience can be isolating.
Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter work closely with Maidstone Borough Council and with the Outreach Team.
As you can see from the information above, MCWS provided hot, home-cooked takeaway meals during winter 2020-21, but we were unable to provide our usual overnight accommodation. We are now starting to make plans for Winter 2021-22 which is still very much an unknown, as Covid may continue to impact the service we are able to provide.
Whilst it is unlikely we will be able to open in exactly the same way we have in previous years, we are still planning to open, in order to support those most in need in our community.
Our priorities will continue to be the provision of shelter, meals, hospitality/support and signposting to other services where appropriate (for example counselling).
If you would like to register your interest to volunteer with us, please click on the 'Get involved/Volunteer' tab at the top of this page, where further information is given.
If you wish to make a financial donation to support our work, please click on the Donate button below.
Help out to Eat out: £10 pays for a home-cooked meal plus a takeaway breakfast pack for one of our guests next winter. If you wish to help, donations can be made here:
The Winter Shelter is making a big difference to the lives of people who, in circumstances often beyond their control, find themselves homeless.
According to Crisis the number of rough sleepers is forecast to rise by 76 percent in the next decade.
Whilst homelessness continues in Maidstone, Kent, Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter will be there to provide help and support, working alongside other agencies and organisations, including volunteers and team members.