Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic, there have been many examples of our communities responding to the exceptional circumstances to help those in need. Here, Arc Foodbank, Irvinestown, shares its story.

COVID-19 has had a big impact on our community, there are many vulnerable individuals and families that have found themselves isolated and alone as the lockdown took hold and this includes homeless people who found themselves displaced and even more vulnerable.

We know our children are not particularly at risk of this virus, but 16 weeks without school is bringing a whole new set of risks, physical, psychological, educational and social. No familiar structure, reduced peer engagement, no free school meals and no formalised childcare.

Mental health has inevitably suffered and reduced access to treatments for addictions etc. has led to increased anxiety amongst vulnerable members of the community.

COVID-19 has presented difficult challenges to our staff, who, much like everybody else, are trying to balance responsibilities. The Centre remains closed to our community and clients. We implemented home working systems coupled with essential work from the premises where required.

For 20 years ARC delivered 6-week summer programmes however this year we will not be able to deliver these programmes in the same way as usual. Parents will need to support their children and each other. We will share resources and creative, affordable ideas for staying home and staying safe.

At ARC we believe we can still be a friend, but from a safe distance and we can ensure people that need to stay at home are safely supported to do so. What about people that don’t have a home? We need to also speak out now on behalf of vulnerable people and ensure there are safe places for homeless people to go to self isolate too.

There are many types of support offered by our staff and volunteers:

  • Food Bank operates from the ARC premises every Friday from 1- 2pm.
  • Chit Chat Project; a phone call to someone (self isolating by choice or direction) at agreed times on a phone supplied be the ARC (so no private numbers are used).
  • Telephone based family support/low threshold addiction support; our highly skilled staff team will be maintaining contact with families/vulnerable people and applying the above models of intervention.
  • In cases where there is no family to deliver basic shopping needs, a volunteer can pick up shopping/pharmacy items and deliver them. The client or a nominated family member will make the order and payment with a local shop over the phone. No hard cash will change hands avoiding potential allegations or contamination. The volunteer will not enter the house at any time. The volunteer will not be contacted directly by the client and all arrangements will be via the ARC.

In the midst of all of this there is great resilience and humour shown by our entire community. It has been a time to combine calm heads and kind hearts. We can all safely spread kindness and compassion and raise the spirits of people who may be desperately frightened and vulnerable.