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Socially isolated homeless and vulnerably housed people welcome reopening of vital South Lakes charity

L-R: Manna House Client Support Workers Chris Holland and Chris Ryan building a gazebo for social distancing

Local homelessness charity, Manna House, will reopen the doors at its Ann Street premises in Kendal and restart vital services after temporarily closing for 14 weeks due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) lock-down.

The charity, which offers support to homeless and vulnerably housed people in South Lakeland, reopens on Monday 6 July with regular sessions for its Women’s Group, Men’s Group, Skills Café, carefully distanced socialising, and picnic lunches.

During the shutdown period, staff at the charity have continued to offer telephone advice on housing and benefits, provide essential food top ups to service users, redistributed food donations to other key services and offer emotional support. Many of their service users ordinarily experience social isolation but the pandemic has magnified the problem.

Service user, Jim said: “Manna House is a place I was used to going four times a week. I don’t cook at home – don’t know how to. Manna House kept me well fed. There are very nice people there and I miss them all smiling at me and serving me lunch. I use the computer there because I have no WiFi or laptop of my own and during lockdown I have been very cut off. I was really starting to go under when I heard about Manna House opening again. It will be better for me in July.”

Nina Bale, long-term volunteer, and founder of Friends of Manna House, added: “The staff, volunteers, and trustees all have one aim – to care for those in need and for each other. For me, the lockdown has felt almost like an amputation or divorce and the news that we can start getting back together on the 6th July, fills my heart with joy and gladness. This long time of separation has made us all think about our lives, appreciate everything we have and really value the service we offer in Kendal and the surrounding area.”

Manna House provides advice, assistance and advocacy to people who have experienced homelessness or social exclusion, helping to improve housing security, emotional and physical well-being and employment prospects.

Fourteen weeks ago, Manna House suspended its regular face to face services to ensure the safety of its clients, staff, volunteers, and the local community. With new measures in place, including a series of large gazebos in the car park, a one-way system through their base at the Stephenson Centre, face masks, Perspex screens, and an enhanced cleaning regime, the charity is confident it is safe to begin the reopening of its site.

Service user, Sue commented: “A lot of services stopped during the pandemic. Kendal was like a ghost town for a while. The Manna House staff have been really generous and I have been coming every week for food top ups and for a socially distanced chat. Manna House helped me open up my post, which I must admit I didn’t want to do! I don’t know how I could have managed if Manna House wasn’t there. I will be glad to get back to coming in regularly again. I am looking forward to feeling normal at Manna House, having a laugh.”

Manna House will be open Mondays 10 – 3pm, Tuesdays 11 – 1pm and Wednesdays 10 – 2pm, although phone appointments can be made throughout the week. These temporary opening hours will be reviewed at the end of the summer.

Donations of food, money, medium men’s clothing and toiletries can be dropped off at the charity’s Stephenson Centre site during opening hours. Manna House asks that all donations are cleaned prior to packing in bags or boxes and then secured with tape and labelled where possible. There will be no on-site parking, except by prior arrangement, to allow for the gazebos.

To find out more or support Manna House, head to www.manna-house.org.uk.

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