Our charity, Leighton Linslade Homeless Service, was established in 2006. It was recognised that help was needed by a growing number of people who were sleeping ‘rough’ without any form of protection. The numbers of homeless people grew and in 2014 the charity’s trustees acquired the lease on a former town pub, The Black Horse and the night shelter was established. It provided safe shelter to people needing emergency night time accommodation.
We provided accommodation throughout the lockdowns of 2020 when so much of normal routine of life was challenged. The shelter remained open 24/7 and provided a supportive and safe environment for those who stayed with us.
It was not an easy decision to close the accommodation provision but after long consideration and discussion with Central Bedfordshire Council, it was decided it was necessary. Support continues for all who are vulnerable to homelessness.
Food was an important aspect of life for us all during the lockdown periods of 2020. In the Black Horse, with volunteers shielding and staying at home, as advised, it was our guests who stepped up to the plate and helped to ensure the shelter continued to run efficiently. New skills were developed in the kitchen. Shared meals became an enjoyable part of life and importantly, we continued to operate our food bank. Leighton Linslade Community Food Bank, established when the lease on Black Horse was acquired, became a lifeline for many people.
The food bank had always provided emergency food parcels but COVID-19 brought about an unprecedented situation. People were facing financial challenges previously not experienced. We were in a strong position to help – not only individuals and families, but other food banks, newly established, created to help individuals who had to shield. When a headteacher from a neighbouring town struggled to find food for her school community, we were able to help with provisions.
We supported the work of Central Bedfordshire Council, Leighton Linslade Helpers and Redwings Hotel which was used for temporary accommodation for rough sleepers and people who were homeless..