Homeless support centre fears second coronavirus wave

The Marie Trust was the only homeless walk-in centre that stayed open in Glasgow during the pandemic.

Homeless support centre fears second coronavirus wave STV News
People queue up for The Marie Trust's daily food service.

The only homeless walk-in support centre that was open in Glasgow throughout the pandemic are ‘extremely concerned’ about a second wave of the coronavirus.

The Marie Trust in Glasgow city centre provides almost 100 individuals a day with a hot meal, food packages, crisis intervention, 1-1 meetings and medical appointments. Since its beginnings in 2009, this year has been their busiest yet.

“Half of us wouldn’t be standing here without it, put it that way,” says Andy, a service user.

“During the lockdown, everywhere was closed, there was no where for us to go and get help. Before we knew about The Marie Trust we thought we were going to starve.”

The service has been a lifeline for many like Andy; they provide housing support and heating vouchers alongside the food which is cooked in their training kitchen, staffed by members of the homeless community.

Volunteers assemble meal packs to hand out in Glasgow.STV News
Volunteers assemble meal packs to hand out in Glasgow.

The charity’s CEO Frances McKinlay says that the initial lockdown period left many service users in “a real state of anxiety”.

“I think people were really stressed. And people had a lot of anxiety – especially at the beginning. I think people forget that we’ve got a TV, we’ve got the news, we communicate with each other.

“A lot of homeless people don’t have access to that. And seeing the city centre closing all around about them, people were in a real state of anxiety.

“I think us being open alleviated a lot of that because people were really worried about where their next meal would come from.”

“We are extremely concerned about a second wave. But more and more services are opening up again in Glasgow and that’s good to see.

CEO of The Marie Trust, Frances McKinlay.STV News
CEO of The Marie Trust, Frances McKinlay.

“At our busiest we were seeing between 90-100 people at the door a day”.

An important new task for volunteers is educating the homeless community on the symptoms of the coronavirus and the importance of social distancing.

Volunteers also deliver weekly meal packs to service users who are self isolating. But they say their most important job was being on hand with a friendly face.

“For homeless people who are socially excluded anyway it is really important to have a face there” added Frances.

“For us it was really important to provide a service where people could still see us every day rather than phone us or use Zoom – people just don’t have access to things like that.”

STV News reporter Polly Bartlett speaks to Andy, who relies on The Marie Trust.STV News
STV News reporter Polly Bartlett speaks to Andy, who relies on The Marie Trust.

This year, the trust introduced an on-site pharmacy to help the city’s homeless access basic healthcare.

After the pandemic, the Marie Trust hopes to move to bigger premises to support more people in Glasgow.

While charities like this are not immune to the effects of the coronavirus: without them, the most vulnerable will struggle to survive this crisis.