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The CNJ aid van rides again with emergency food drops

We took food to crisis centres and individuals struggling to get supplies

18 April, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Narda Muni at Food For All gets ready to cook

VOLUNTEERS from across the borough have spent another busy week lending help to neighbours who need it.

And once again the New Journal has joined our readers involved in the effort, delivering emergency parcels and working with others to distribute donations as people struggle to access food and support.

Charities including Age UK and Camden Giving, community centres, tenants associations, food banks, homeless support groups, food co-ops, individuals and informal groups of neighbours have been working to try and make sure no one feels forgotten.

The Dussart family with their collection and, below, we take food to Streets Kitchen 

The New Journal has mucked in, helping established groups and responding to readers who have turned to us for help and information.

One who called our office was an isolated woman in her 70s who has not been able to leave the house for three weeks. We made sure she had an emergency food delivery sorted out to tide her over and helped her arrange longer term support. It is one story in a stream of cases, but such help would not be possible without individuals stepping forward.

Vanessa Freeman works at the Brickworks Community Centre’s food hub and has kept parcels topped up by donating to the CNJ to pass on. She said: “We’re happy to be able to help the New Journal reach the many people in the community who need it.”

With the help of H & H Van Hire, we’ve dropped off crates of food to four community centres, three hostels, homeless outreach services, food banks this week, and separately made sure more than 100 individuals had help over the Easter weekend.

Vanessa Freeman from the Brickworks Community Centre and, below, the Monsoon restaurant continue to cook free meals to those in need

Lorraine Kinnear at the Salvation Army takes in some of our stock

We’ve also helped stock up the outreach teams for Streets Kitchen and Food For All, passing on 15 sackfuls of hot cross buns – around 2,700 of them, we guess. A cache of chocolate Eggs brightened up Easter Sunday for children staying indoors. For others, we laid on a roast after donations from charity worker Bob Dowd. He said: “We’ve seen people really looking out for each other.”

Karisma Puri founded the Kentish Town Mutual Aid group a week before lock down began. She said: “The response has been truly amazing. Kentish Town has always had a good communal spirit, and we have really felt that. “We have been able to react very quickly – for example, we were contacted by a vulnerable family in temporary accommodation and within an hour we delivered help to them.” Streets have also banded together.

The Dussart family from Camden Town asked neighbours to leave a bag of essentials on their door steps – and then collected them to pass on to our reporters. Thank you to all who have helped.

People struggle on with no cash or even anything to eat

OVER the past four weeks, reporters helping out with emergency food deliveries have seen the raw effects that the coronavirus is crisis is having on those who were already living on the breadline, writes Dan Carrier.

After a request came through from the Kentish Town Mutual Aid group, we took a package of supplies to a woman isolating in a council block in Gospel Oak.

Kirsty McCarthy, 45, who has a list of pre-existing health conditions and considered at extra risk of the virus, had completely run out of money during a wait for benefits to be sorted out and a lifetime of financial hardship. Her sister has moved in to her flat to help out, but they lack basics: no TV and no computer to use to check the news or contact people. After moving to London in the 1990s as a student, she worked for a government department.

Kirsty McCarthy

But stress at work led to a breakdown which saw her lose her job and then be evicted. After a spell on the streets, she spent six years at a King’s Cross hostel. “Hostel life is not great,” she said. “I had a room, but my illnesses got worse.”

She was found a flat in 2007 but struggled to return to work due to a diagnosed borderline personality disorder, a hernia, advanced osteoarthritis and chronic asthma.

Instead, Ms McCarthy made small steps with voluntary work for a Camden Town charity working with the homeless. “I use a nebuliser four times a day,” she said. “It is basically a machine that keeps me breathing.”

For a decade she was paying incorrect payments and got further into debt; an admin error saw her paying full council tax, prescriptions, and all other bills with no concessions. The lockdown means Ms McCarthy is unable to leave the flat to speak to a benefits adviser or debt relief worker – and she says she has waited for hours on hold to get through on the single, pay-as-you-go telephone she shares with her sister.

“Life was hard before this – but it’s even worse now,” she said. “I can’t step outside my front door and this could go on for months. There are so many people out there who don’t have support and feel completely alone. “I look out of my window from my block in Gospel Oak, across Camden, and I wonder how many people are going through this too.”


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