Northampton Hope Centre is a charity which works with homeless and vulnerable people.
Like many other charities, Hope is struggling for funds more than ever with the country in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic and an unprecedented community lockdown.
The Chief Executive of Hope, Robin Burgess, has written this online blog for ITV News Anglia
For 46 years, Hope has been providing essential support to the poorest and most disadvantaged in Northampton, supported, in the main, by the local community itself through individual fundraising, often through events.
It’s a struggle making ends meet at all times, as for many ‘on the ground’ charities, Hope is fragile, and the demand on it is often great.
However, the impact of the coronavirus has changed how we work, and how we fund ourselves, out of all recognition.
Firstly, homeless people have been moved into hotels, instead of being out on the street. This means our day centre has had to close during this period, but placed greater demands on us in feeding the nearly 100 people now in temporary accommodation.
Instead of supplying 1,400 meals over six days, we are now supplying 2 000 meals (plus clothes and emotional support) over seven days.
We have had to re-structure our service entirely, and re-deployed our Hope Catering business (which employs ex-homeless people) to run this operation alongside day centre staff.
Our other work has been in feeding other people in poverty. The number of these created by the crisis has increased at a huge level.
Before the crisis, we ran pop-up shops on estates, supporting people on low incomes with affordable food. Now we have transferred to home deliveries, but we are not taking any payment, and we have tripled the number of people we are supporting, including extra people supported by organisations working on domestic abuse and offending.
The demand that both areas of work has placed upon us has been overwhelming.
We had built up large stocks of ambient or long life food, but the vast majority of this has now already been given out to people in need.
We have been able to take some donations of fresh food, which has helped, and some groups and organisations supporting us have been fantastic.
But demand exceeds supply – and we have been given extended warehouse space to accommodate the extra.
"When demand is at its greatest, our income is at its lowest"
Financially, the funding we would normally obtain through donations has dramatically fallen, as we have cancelled events and activities have been postponed.
Unlike many charities, we can’t furlough staff which are needed for frontline service delivery that carries on at a higher level.
So at the time when demand is at its greatest, our income is at its lowest, and sources of support from central government and supermarkets has been sadly notforthcoming, and sometimes even insulting, as the pictures (below) of mouldy food show.
As we approach the peak of this crisis, the pressure onorganisations like Hope is incredible; on our staff, our volunteers, on our food stores, yet at this time we have only two weeks food left.