An update from SMART CJS’s CEO, Anita McCallum.
You will be aware that due to Covid-19, we have been running our homeless and rough sleeper services and from temporary hotel accommodation in Bedford. This has enabled us to protect the health of those who use our services by providing a secure place for them to socially isolate themselves. Many rough sleepers have extremely poor health and severe underlying health conditions, so being able to provide a place of safety, with access to food, cleaning facilities and support has helped to prevent the spread of the virus and also to protect the NHS.
The change in operations has been an enormous task and an incredibly challenging time. I am so proud of staff, volunteers and service users in the way they have responded to the changes in service delivery. Our staff team have selflessly stepped forward to cover extra shifts and work outside their usual duties and working patterns. We have been bolstered by staff from partner services and a dedicated crew of 10 regular volunteers, recruited with the help of Bedford Borough Council. Their time and commitment have been invaluable!
Although challenging, the current arrangement provides a fantastic opportunity for us to work with our service users in a more intensive and focused way, which we hope will help to engage and support them into suitable accommodation post-lockdown.
To date we have supported almost 100 individuals – double the number of people we usually support 24/7. I’m delighted to tell you that by working closely with our partners and the council our team have helped 48 people to move into suitable accommodation!
Back in March, when the country went into lockdown, we realised that we were going to have a SHORTFALL of £25,000 in donations from the groups which normally meet and raise funds for our projects. We also anticipated additional money being required to relocate and change our service model. This is why we launched our emergency appeal, which, with your help, has raised £10,900 so far.
As you can see, we are a long way from reaching our target! We now urgently need your ongoing support to help cover our additional staffing costs and to ensure the future of the SMART Prebend Centre when we reopen. We know that many people have been hit hard by unemployment and loss of income as a result of Covid-19 and the SMART Prebend Centre will play an essential role in supporting the Bedford community through the tough times that lay ahead.
I would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has donated their time, belongings, and money to help keep us going. Special thanks go to The Harpur Trust, who have awarded SMART CJS a grant from the Bedfordshire Coronavirus Emergency Response Fund. This covers the costs for one of our staff working from the hotel until the end of July. Heartfelt thanks to Bedford Park Rotary for their extremely generous donation of £2000 and for the continued support at the hotel.
Homelessness in Bedford has already increased as a result of the pandemic. People have lost the means to pay for their housing – whether it be rented or through a mortgage. We must continue to work together to ensure there will be SMART CJS services available for people who will sadly fall into this category.
We rely heavily on the support from our community to keep SMART services alive and I can’t thank you enough for all that you do.
Chief Executive Officer- SMART CJS
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