News / coronavirus

How coronavirus outbreak is affecting Bristol’s charities

By ellie pipe, Saturday Mar 28, 2020

With services increasingly strained or closing, Caring in Bristol teams are working to help “avert a catastrophe” for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

And they need support now more than ever, says the charity’s director, Ben Richardson, in an open letter outlining the risk facing individuals who are experiencing homelessness and challenges faced by those trying to help.

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“We are in unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic having a profound effect on everyone and all the things we take for granted. Like a home to call our own, a sofa to put our feet up on, friends and family,” said Richardson.

“The team at Caring in Bristol are working at maximum capacity to help avert a catastrophe for vulnerable people in our community. Our services are adapting and changing in the face of continual uncertainty, but we are keeping the needs of those without homes and a safety net at the very front of what we do with their needs more exposed than ever before.”

Adversity is spurring on innovation across the city and Caring in Bristol is among those trying to adapt, with plans for a takeaway and delivery service to get food to those people experiencing homelessness that would otherwise be hungry or even too unwell to get food.

To support Caring in Bristol’s emergency appeal, visit:

Bristol City Council put out a call on Monday, March 23, asking hotels, Airbnb owners and accommodation providers to help with providing 450 rooms needed to house people across the city who are homeless.

The Government has since told all councils in England to house rough sleepers this weekend, although without providing any additional funding to support this.

With the city’s most vulnerable being found safe accommodation, Feed the Homeless Bristol teams completed their final weekend of work on Sunday until the pandemic has passed. But the charity is still playing a role in providing vital support for those who need it most.

Speaking about how Feed the Homeless Bristol has been operating in these unprecedented times, trustee Gary Webber says: “We have been following guidance from the authorities at all times and have set out a queuing system to ensure that both the homeless and our volunteer groups stay a safe distance apart and safe at all times. Stringent policies on hygiene are followed alongside strict food policies.

“As we enter our final phase, we have moved to set up a crowd funding page in order to support the homeless by raising funds to help them with the essentials whilst in their isolation term.

“Finally, we would like to pay tribute to all the unsung heroes who selflessly volunteer across all charities to help bring a little bit of happiness into people’s lives.”

To support Feed the Homeless Bristol’s emergency appeal, visit:

For inHope, a charity that runs a number of projects including East Bristol Foodbank and the Wild Goose popup service on Stapleton Road, one of the key challenges has been in keeping up with increased demand for vital supplies.

East Bristol Foodbank has experienced a significant increase in the past week of people in need of emergency food parcels, while the Wild Goose pop-up takeaway service is serving between 65 and 70 individuals with drinks and snacks.

“At present, we are focusing on the immediate and ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the long term effects for homeless and vulnerable people in Bristol are yet to be seen,” said charity bosses, appealing for support.

Steve Baker, of Inhope, says the teams are exploring how the foodbank could deliver supplies to people who are self-isolating or in a vulnerable group. But this comes with the challenge of needing to mobilise drivers and volunteers at a time when many of the usual teams are out of action as they fall into vulnerable groups that must self-isolate.


To support inHope’s emergency appeal, visit:

Aside from those working on the frontline to continue services during these unprecedented times, other charities are facing what, for some, could be a catastrophic loss in income as people remain in lockdown and fundraising events are cancelled.

Penny Brohn has suspended all face to face support services and closed its Pill-based centre in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but families affected by cancer need the charity more than ever.

CEO Laura Kerby said: “Many cancer patients already feel very anxious and vulnerable as a result of their diagnosis; its associated symptoms and treatment can have a significant emotional impact on people and their families, with fear, isolation, loss of self-esteem and loss of independence having a huge impact on their health and wellbeing.

“This is now being intensified by the impact of coronavirus on essential healthcare systems and people with cancer now face the real possibility of delays, cancellations and changes to their cancer treatment.

“This isn’t the time to have to scale back services. Therefore, the challenge for us becomes how do we best support people with cancer to improve their quality of life when they may be feeling anxious and disconnected at home?”

As well as having to change how it works to continue supporting cancer patients and their families, Penny Brohn is facing a “catastrophic” loss in earnings, with around £300,000 usually brought in by May fundraising events.

The charity has been offered a lifeline in the form of match funding up to April 6 and is asking for support.

To support Penny Brohn’s fundraiser, visit:

Jessie May is similarly facing a drop in funds just when its services are most needed.

The charity provides a hospice at home provision, caring for terminally ill children and their families.

“This coronavirus crisis is causing a huge amount of distress to our families with very vulnerable children,” said CEO Chris Roys.

“Our Jessie May Nurses are still providing as much support as possible and visiting those in most need, in a huge collaborative effort to try and keep the children at home and out of hospital. But this comes at a cost.”

He appealed for help from the public to keep the specialist Jessie May nurses out in people’s homes, providing support and care when it’s most needed.

To support Jessie May, visit

For Milestones Trust, the pressure comes from maintaining staff levels during this increasingly fraught time.

The charity, which supports people with learning disabilities, mental health needs, dementia and complex behavioural needs, is after casual support workers.

If you know of a charity facing new challenges during the coronavirus outbreak, please get in touch by emailing

Read more: Coronavirus: the battle to get food to people who need it most in Bristol

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