COVID-19 response and Informal Community Civic Action – How a Small Organisation Battles Through Lockdown & Still Reaches its Service Users.
Posted: Thu, 04 Jun 2020 12:40 by Alice Trevallion
Helen, Chief Exec at The Project, shares her organisations experience of adapting to the Covid19 epidemic and how new learning could change their delivery going forward.
Can you tell us a bit about your organisation. Can you include some of the roles volunteers play in the delivery of your work.
The Project is a homeless prevention charity, it provides support to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, we do this by offering advice and casework on housing, welfare benefits and debt issues. We also run a crisis service this offers things like food, clothing, bus tickets and furniture grants.
Our volunteers mainly support our crisis service, they collect food donations, organise emergency food parcels, go shopping for clothing, pick up small bits of furniture. We also have volunteers who help us in the office with the administration side of the organisation, answering phone calls and welcoming visitors to our drop-in centre.
How has COVID-19 affected your work and organisation?
When the lock down was announced all of our advisers and case workers went to homeworking straight away, this was a challenge as we didn't have the technology in place, luckily we were able to get a phone system installed and IT systems set up, it has cost us quite a bit of money to do but it has meant we can carry on providing support to people who need it.
Our drop-in homeless service has had to stop completely, that has been very difficult as it supports some of the most vulnerable members of the community, we have been sign posting people to the Local Authority and to the emergency homeless provision that was put in place.
Have there been any new opportunities or new partnerships which have resulted due to the pandemic? Can you tell us about them - In particular, is there anything you're doing now that you might not have done before?
Yes lots. Straight away we were involved in the Covid-19 Community Response for south Birmingham. Northfield Community Partnership, NNNS, The Project, B31 Voices and the Northfield Stakeholders Group set up an emergency phone line for people in south Birmingham, we combined all our food resources and created a foodbank that has been supported by the local Councillors and volunteers. Street champions were recruited to help with prescription collections and wellbeing checks. We have set up new services to support families and created a new Babybank for essential items. The Northfield Stakeholders Group holds a weekly Zoom meetings to talk about issues the community is facing and come up with practical solutions, it's really amazing to see over 30 organistions all working together to support the community.
What's surprised you most about your work during the pandemic?
This is a difficult question, I think initially I was surprised at how quickly we all came together to respond to the crisis and how many people wanted to help. As time has gone on I am now surprised at how many people in our community have 'slipped through the net' we are seeing more and more people who have not received any support previously, in one way the crisis has helped us identify these people, we have been able to get the right support in place for them and their situations have improved dramatically.
I'm also surprised how much time I wasted traveling to meetings before the crisis.
It's Volunteers' Week this week. What tips would you give to Volunteers looking to support an organisation such as yours during this time?
There are so many ways you can help organisations and charities during this time and not all volunteering involves you leaving the house, even if you can't go out and volunteer you can spread the word about the support that is on offer, you can check on your street and your neighbors, you can call someone for a chat, there are so many ways people can get involved.
Also there is no minimum or maximum amount of hours you need to do, some people can only offer an hour a week and others can do five whole days, every minute is apricated and beneficial to us.
Our website is www.theprojectbirmingham.org Please visit to find out more of what we do or get in touch if you'd like to volunteer with us.