'We're doing our best': Liverpool community centre appeals for help after overwhelming demand amid coronavirus pandemic

  • By ITV News Correspondent Damon Green

There's a note on the door of the L6 Community Centre warning visitors not to come in, but to knock and to wait.

And they might have to wait a while, because upstairs the entire staff of the centre are up against it.

In masks and gloves, they are frantically packing crates with food, with toiletries and sanitary items that will go to some of the most vulnerable people in the city of Liverpool.

"We’re doing our best," says Gerard Woodhouse, the chief executive of this charity and the driving force behind it.

"We’re doing our best.

"It’s all we can do," he said.

This isn’t a food bank.

It’s a charity that supports families in need, referred to the centre by care professionals in the city.

But at the moment, with the lockdown in place and many older and disabled people struggling to supply themselves, all of the efforts of staff and volunteers are going towards trying to keep them fed.

  • 'The amount of people that we're getting who have got to stay at home, it's just unbelievable,' says Gerard Woodhouse

When I visited, the single phone line at the centre had taken 176 calls for help in the last three hours.

And Gerard and his team are struggling not to be overwhelmed.

"Tinned food, toiletries, bacon, sausage, pasta… we’re short of everything," he says.

"And it’s really hard to find the stuff at the moment.

"I’ve just sent a driver to Leeds to pick up a pallet load because that’s the closest place we can find a supply.

"I’m on the phone to everyone all day… no-one has anything."

Volunteers at the centre packing the food parcels have to be strict.

There is a rule: only one of everything in each delivery.

There’s a worker in a back room dividing packs of bacon, sausages and mince to make supplies go further.

A supporter of the charity is working full-time cooking up great batches of Scouse in her kitchen and freezing them as individual portions.

Volunteers at the centre packing the food parcels have to be strict when packing packages. Credit: ITV News

Mark has worked at the centre for three weeks and is totally committed to his role as a delivery driver.

Each food parcel goes into the boot of his small car and he sets off to his next stop.

"I feel like I’m a key worker," he told me, before adding: "What we do is vital.

"If we weren’t able to deliver this food, some of these people would have no way of getting it for themselves.

"I’m going too keep doing it for as long as I can."

One of his stops is for Miriam, a 74-year-old former social worker who lives on her own in Everton.

Recently diagnosed with cancer, she’s in the group at the greatest risk from Covid-19.

"I’m supposed to be going to an appointment this week, I’m guessing that’s cancelled," she said.

Like many who need frequent hospital care, she's discovering that coronavirus is making life even harder than normal.

  • 'You've got to be positive': says Miriam who's 74-years-old

"These deliveries are a lifeline to hundreds of people.

"They depend on them," Miriam said.

She added: "If you are old and disabled and can’t get out to the shops, and don’t have any family nearby, how can you cope?

"What the L6 Community Centre are doing is brilliant.

"Gerard and his staff are all just amazing."

But Gerard doesn't know quite how much longer his staff will be able to meet a rocketing demand, at a time when suppliers are increasing their prices.

He estimates he's having to spend £2,000 every day just to meet current needs - and he expects those needs to grow the longer the lockdown continues.

Recently, he says, he tried to buy new chest freezers to store pre-cooked and frozen food - but found that the cost of those freezers had doubled in a week.

The L6 Community Centre depends entirely on donations to do its work.

They are hoping the generosity of the city of Liverpool will endure longer the the current crisis.

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