Rise & Shine: Big Breakfast Plus is back!
It’s felt like a long time since the start of the Covid-19 crisis in March 2020 and we’ve got so much fantastic news to share with you all in the coming weeks and months. But first a quick recap on the events of the last year before we get cracking with some updates about our priorities and our continued work to support homeless people in Swindon.
A lot has changed. We have some hellos to make and sadly some goodbyes too, so let’s dive in!
Covid-19: Temporary closure of our service
As the Covid-19 crisis unfolded we closed our service to guests for the first time since our charity was founded in 1993. Our service was shut down overnight on 18th March 2020 due to restrictions on ‘social gatherings,’ and at that point there was limited information about the plan for homeless services. Whilst this was a very difficult thing to do, it was essential to comply with public health measures and keep our guests, volunteers and staff safe.
Services and support for homeless people changed significantly during the pandemic. All rough sleepers in Swindon were offered accommodation by Swindon Borough Council and timely housing assessments were carried out for people who were sofa surfing and those who were vulnerably housed. We were glad to see this support in place and very much hope that it continues in future.
Whilst we remained active behind the scenes, our trustees felt it was impractical to reopen the service in between lockdowns. Due to the layout of The Haven and social distancing measures, our service would have been restricted to just 8-10 guests a day (35% of our normal service) with a requirement to pre-book which presented a potential barrier for our guests. As a charity, Big Breakfast Plus is here for every homeless adult or those at risk of homelessness who need support in Swindon. We just couldn’t face having to turn hungry guests away and the layout of the site meant that we couldn’t offer a take-away service.
Despite these challenges, we were able to link up with other services locally and provide a food voucher so known rough sleepers who wanted a meal and a hot drink at breakfast time were able to get one as a take-away. Thanks to our sponsors and fundraisers, we were able to buy 285 pre-paid £5 Greggs vouchers through our ‘Buy a Breakfast’ campaign. Thanks also to Greggs for being so friendly, supportive and welcoming to our regular homeless guests.
Through the pandemic, our team stayed in touch through Zoom and our trustees have been planning for re-opening in line with the easing of restrictions and identifying how we can develop our service so Big Breakfast Plus emerges from the pandemic stronger, more sustainable financially and ready to hit the ground running.
A new location for Big Breakfast Plus
In January 2019, Big Breakfast Plus moved to The Haven on Queens Drive to support the second year of the Temporary Winter Housing Project and the planned ‘one-stop’ multi-agency homeless hub. Whilst The Haven offered a fantastic venue for our service throughout 2019, Big Breakfast Plus will be relocating to a new venue (yet to be announced) in 2021.
The decision to relocate our service has not been taken lightly. We have actively listened to our guests who’ve told us that, whilst The Haven is accessible for other services, it’s felt to be too far outside of the Town Centre to meet their everyday needs so early in the morning.
We are very grateful to The Haven for offering a home for Big Breakfast Plus and we wish Swindon Night Shelter all the best with the continued delivery of this important service for homeless people in Swindon. As ever, we remain committed to working in partnership with local homeless charities through our work on the ground and through Homeless Organisations Standing Together in Swindon (HOSTS).
Sadly for us, Jonathan left Big Breakfast Plus at the beginning of January to work for Richmond Fellowship as a Support Worker to their clients. Support work is what’s closest to his heart and he really missed that connection with our guests.
We know that some of our volunteers will not be able to re-join us because they’ve moved away (Chippenham and Spain are two of the relocations that we know of!). Others have changed jobs during lockdown and some of our corporate teams may not be able to come back either. And, for at least one of our volunteers, a new baby means that she can’t really get away for breakfast!
Our very grateful thanks to all of them – do keep in touch through our social media, we’d love to hear how you’re all doing and what volunteering at Big Breakfast Plus meant for you.
Welcome to our new General Manager, Jax
We’re delighted to welcome new Big Breakfast Plus General Manager, Jax who will oversee our service delivery as well as supporting with our overall strategic goals including promotion and fundraising as we move through the pandemic and beyond.
Jax comes to us from the corporate world where she has practical experience of strategy, operations, transformation and customer service. We believe Jax will be a great asset to Big Breakfast Plus. She’s always positive and energetic and brings with her a wealth of skills and expertise that will help us continue offering a great service to our guests as well as delivering on our mission and strategic objectives.
Please join us giving a very warm welcome to Jax as she starts her role with Big Breakfast Plus. We can’t wait for you all to meet her when it is safe to reopen for guests.
Changes to our board of Trustees
Our charity is incredibly grateful for the hard work and dedication of our amazing Board of Trustees who have given so much of their time and enthusiasm to steer us through the Covid-19 crisis and set the future direction of Big Breakfast Plus.
Anna Mowbray was due to resign at the end of March 2020 as she was changing her job and had moved to Oxford. In this case, Covid did us a favour as she generously decided that she could continue to support our work while we were all working remotely. But, with restrictions easing, she has now stepped down and we’ll really miss her amazing hard work in drafting funding applications and raising tens of thousands of pounds in support of homeless people in Swindon.
We also lost Mark Shackleford as a trustee during lockdown as he felt that his professional catering background was best suited to the practical aspects of providing breakfasts.
So we say thank you to them both for everything they brought to the organisation.
Rosemary Curtis (Chair), Sam Heatman (Deputy Chair), Di Harris and Sarah Smith remain as Trustees and will be supported by General Manager Jax, our team of cooks and our brilliant volunteers. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be recruiting for new Board members and volunteers to support the service. Stay tuned for more information or keep an eye on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages.
Big Breakfast Plus has been closed for 14 months. In normal times we would have served almost 10,000 breakfasts and welcomed over 550 guests over that period. We know that demand for our service will remain as strong as ever following the lifting of lockdown restrictions and the growth in food poverty locally.
We have set out 5 key priorities that we aim to work towards once we are able to reopen our service to guests:
- Finding a venue for Big Breakfast Plus which is conveniently located for the town centre.
- Fundraising to support our operations and projected growth in service demand.
- Recruiting new trustees and volunteers.
- Working in partnership with other homeless organisations to help rough sleepers, people who are sofa surfing, people who are vulnerably housed and people in food poverty.
- Staying connected with supporters, donors and members of the public to raise awareness of our work with homeless people in Swindon.
It’s great to be back!
It’s been a challenging year for Big Breakfast Plus, but we are delighted to be taking steps for a full reopening of our service. We would like to take this opportunity to thank our team of staff, volunteers and Trustees as well as all of our generous supporters, donors and funders, for their support over the last 14 months. In our next blog, we’ll be sharing more information about the amazing community support that has continued even during lockdown
We hope to be able to share further updates about our reopening soon and in line with public health guidance.
In the meantime, (if you can afford to do so) please consider sponsoring a breakfast or making a regular donation through our LocalGiving page. If you would like to host a (Covid safe) fundraising event or activity on behalf of Big Breakfast Plus, please do get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
With many thanks and best wishes,
Big Breakfast Plus HQ
We need your support
25 years and who knows how many breakfasts later, we’re still here and needed more than ever. That’s where you come in…