Unity in Poverty Action aims to practically assist the Christian community and the wider city of Leeds in working together to tackle poverty in Leeds.
UPA arranges regular meetings between projects that tackle various aspects of poverty within Leeds; praying together, channelling resources from churches and individuals out to initiatives serving Leeds, encouraging Christians to be family and engage in ongoing discipleship with some of the poorest people in Leeds. They aim to express unity and avoid duplication.
Response to COVID-19 crisis
UPA has been busy during the #COVID19 Pandemic. Project Coordinator Dave Paterson and Development Worker Mary Halsey who also chair the Leeds Food Aid Network, Leeds Homeless Charter and the West Yorkshire Food Poverty Network have been taking calls, responding to emails, texts and social media enquiries.
They have taken part in substantial work to support the homeless community, particularly around food provision. They are working with 3 volunteer drivers who are helping to deliver food parcels and in transporting food to where it is needed.
With over 116 people being placed into hotels or alternative accommodation, UPA worked in partnership with the local Council and Street Outreach Team, they prepared 130 food bags in a week that were collected from St. George’s Crypt and taken to these accommodations. Funding for this was provided by Big Change Leeds.
With the council now providing lunch and evening meals to these hotels and alternative accommodation, UPA continues to provide food bags for Simon on the Streets.
When setting up support services for vulnerable people, commissioners have traditionally relied upon charities, churches and grassroots groups to provide the food. However, the current health crisis has necessitated a change in food provision for those in need. A key focus for UPA now is responding to grass-root groups’ desire to support those people in temporary accommodation.
UPA is also involved in relaying information from The Street Support Team (Collaboration between Street Outreach, Forward Leeds, Bevan Health Care, and Housing Options) to the grass-root groups. This includes engaging with several groups, helping them to process whether they should still be going out onto the street to do outreach, giving clear guidance on social distancing while maintaining circulation around the city centre. E.g. only going out in 2’s, wearing gloves and placing food in bags on the floor.
The project also sends out information to the Christian Community, detailing activities on Food Aid, Homelessness and VALs Covid19 volunteering scheme along with other activities such as Christian collaborations in business, health and politics.
Many of these activities will continue over the spring and possibly into the summer months depending on government guidance. This includes the challenge of having most food bank referrals being done online through the welfare support scheme.