In ordinary times, the Prescot and Whiston Methodist Church is abuzz with activity each Monday lunchtime. This is the day of the weekly ‘drop-in’ organised by SHARe Knowsley, a support service for asylum seekers and refugees living in the borough, and Mondays at the church on Atherton Street in Prescot mean as many as 50 people calling in to make use of the weekly pop-up shop offering food and second-hand clothing at nominal prices together with a free meal.
They also get the opportunity to access advice from a British Red Cross case worker and to build a support network in a safe and welcoming meeting place. However, with a third national lockdown under way, these are not ordinary times and the impact of the pandemic on the charity’s work is considerable.
With the ‘drop-in’ currently closed, manager Margaret Roche explains that ‘at the moment we’re doing food deliveries but on alternate weeks because of funding and Covid restrictions. We need to consider our volunteers and minimise the risk for them so we have a smaller group of people packing parcels.’ These volunteers, she adds, ‘generally belong to different Christian churches’ but with a good number in the older age bracket, fewer are available to help out at the very time that demand for support has risen with over 80 single people and between 25 and 30 families now receiving food parcels.
In addition, the English language lessons that SHARe organises – for three different learner levels – at the Old School House in Huyton have gone back online, albeit still four days a week.
Meanwhile, Roche is counting the financial cost of the closure of churches. ‘We are short on donations because the churches are all closed and that was our main source of funding,’ she says, explaining that the money from donation boxes in a couple of local churches was used to refund the travel costs of anyone who used SHARe’s services. ‘When you have only £37 a week to live on, your bus fare leaves a big hole,’ she notes.
For more information about SHARe Knowsley or to make a donation, please visit: www.shareknowsley.org.uk