A Cumbrian organisation which offers vital help to the homeless has been given a financial boost to help it recover from the impact of Covid.
Calderwood House, in Egremont, provides accommodation for up to 11 homeless people at any one time, but during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, its workforce was severely depleted.
Time to Change West Cumbria – the organisation which runs the hostel – saw its regular funding streams dry up as the country effectively shut down.
Thanks to a grant of £15,741 from the Cumberland Building Society’s Community Fund they were able to cover the shortfall in staff by hiring emergency support workers.
Founder and company director Rachel Holliday said: “When lockdown first happened, three members of staff at Calderwood House had to shield. During that time we also had staff self-isolating and one even had Covid so had to be off for a fortnight.
“Myself and Stephen Pettit – Calderwood Hostel Manager – were covering as many shifts as possible because we didn’t want to leave the place unstaffed, and in the end we had to bring in a security firm to support us.
“The grant allowed us to hire additional support workers. It can be difficult to find support workers who are experienced enough to work lone shifts, managing a hostel with 10 homeless people in it, but those that applied were excellent and are great members of staff.”
As well as the difficulties faced by the lack of staff, adjusting to how they would deal with the pandemic and its restrictions was also a major challenge.
The 10 vulnerable residents at Calderwood House were suddenly not able to go out and were mostly confined to their rooms, so they were provided with activity packs and Brooks of Whitehaven also installed a TV in every room.
This was on top of the outreach work that Time to Change takes on, supporting vulnerable people in the region.
“We helped over 200 people through the project during the pandemic, so it was a crazy, crazy time,our shielding staff made sure no one was left behind by calling everyone to make sure they were safe” Rachel continued.
“The first thing we did when we were in a position to was to give our staff a pay rise to £10 an hour. We never furloughed anyone in the first wave, but we had to furlough three members in the second round of furlough and topped up their wages.
“Our reserves took a huge hit though, after five years of building it up – but that’s what reserves are for isn’t it, to see us through times like a global pandemic?”
A silver lining, if there is one to be found in a worldwide health crisis, was that it brought homelessness into the spotlight. The Government launched its ‘Everyone In’ initiative to provide hotel accommodation to all rough sleepers and remove some of the legal barriers that often prevent homeless people qualifying for help – something that Rachel is keen to see continue.
“One thing I never thought I’d ever see was a time where every homeless person had a home, but it showed that it can be done with a huge effort and it’s something that we should all be working towards.”
The Cumberland fund is managed by the Cumbria Community Foundation and forms part of the building society support for good causes made possible by its landmark decision to increase the amount it donates to charitable and community groups to 1.5 percent of net profits
Becky Towns, The Cumberland’s CSR & Comms Executive, said: “The pandemic has created huge pressures for so many local charities so we’re pleased to be able to do what we can to help.
“Organisations like Calderwood House, that look after the most vulnerable people in our society, deserve all the help they can get, and this is our own way of offering some vital support.”