4 June 2020
The staff at Open Door are accustomed to “wearing many hats,” says Rosie Radford, the organisation’s chef/communications officer. As the coronavirus crisis has worsened, however, Rosie and her coworkers have had to be more resourceful than ever to help those in need.
Normally, the charity would be opening its doors four times a week for around 60 guests to come and get breakfast, “endless cups of tea and coffee”, as well as hot lunches, sandwiches, and food parcels on different days of the week. Guests were also provided facilities to do laundry and shower, as well as provided with support in reaching out to other organisations dealing with addiction, unemployment, and counseling. The relaxed, social approach of Open Door has made it a cornerstone of many guests' lives for the past 28 years. As Rosie describes: “One of our guests said to us ‘it’s just like being at a friend’s house.’ And it is – there’s that atmosphere of ‘come in! Put your washing in, have a cup of tea!’ It really does feel like home. It’s like a family.”
To adapt to the new circumstances of the pandemic, the staff of Open Door have had to temporarily shutter their site and quickly transform their jovial dining room style food service into a food parcel delivery system. Rather than showing up for tea, community members can now reach out to Open Door via telephone to request a food delivery. “Not a single call has been what I expected,” Rosie tells me “We’re getting people who maybe didn’t use Open Door before but who are vulnerable and now need us. We’ve been working long hours, evenings, weekends, we’re having to roll with the punches.” Rosie puts the parcels together from the dry food stocks they’ve received from FareShare, tailoring each parcel to meet each person’s needs and cooking ability. “My life is FareShare,” she says “and I love it, everything I do is based around those deliveries.”
Though they’ve had to change the way they do things, Open Door’s staff knows that they’re needed now more than ever: “Right now it’s primarily people with mental health issues in need of the deliveries, but we might see more people in financial trouble feeling the pinch and needing our help. Mental health issues, addiction, those things don’t just evaporate in a crisis. They can make it harder to stay indoors and stay safe. If we can support what the government wants and help people to stay home by making their lives a little easier we’ll do that. We’ve also been working with other organisations in the area on how to feed homeless people who’ve accepted temporary accommodation in hotels.”
Being unable to physically gather together has been a blow to the Open Door community, but Rosie and her team are determined to make sure people still feel connected and cared for, even in the time of social distancing: “It’s a big challenge and it’s about everyone coming together and figuring out how to help. Even if it can’t be a hug and a long chat, if someone cares enough to show up, make sure that you have something to eat, you at least know you have some kind of support. It makes your life a little bit easier, and these things can make a difference.”