I find the phrase, “easing of restrictions” to be such a misnomer. There’s nothing easy about coming out of lockdown! I imagine this feels different for everyone, but I doubt easy is true for anyone. For the City Centre Project Team, there is much hard work to be done.
Our daytime drop-in reopened to guests for sit-down meals this week. We have been limited to serving takeaway food for almost four months. It’s been a cold winter and we’ve often had queues, so staff have been unable to linger over a conversation at the door. Instead, we have given guests as much practical help as we can: lamb stew or macaroni cheese, boxes of cleaning supplies and food donated by Bethany Christian Trust, razors and toothpaste from our own stores. Although necessary and appreciated, we have missed the community feel of the drop-in.
Reports from the first week are so encouraging. We did attempt to get the word out to guests in the preceding days, but it wasn’t always possible. Susan noticed the pleasure of surprising guests with the news, of flinging the door wide to invite them inside. Linda and David have spoken of the joy of opportunities to sit and talk with guests – our tables are well set-up for social distancing. Instead of a hasty word or two as food is handed over, staff and volunteers can properly catch up, rebuilding community and offering advocacy where required.
I am looking forward to moving away from crisis response and coordinating and getting back to Urban – my real job! Susan and I have closely studied the government guidance and are very excited at the prospect of beginning to meet in small groups again. Susan has facilitated months of online learning along with the lecturers from the City of Glasgow College. From the beginning of May, we might have the opportunity to welcome the classes back into Urban. I’ll spend the next week or two reaching out to volunteers and teachers, hopeful of some art in the park, music lessons in the studio, pottery at the kiln, and lots of time to just chat over a coffee.
One thing I think our team will take away from this strange year is the significance of good partnership working; whether with other agencies or just across our own teams. An example of this would be how I spent today: hosting a series of workshops to inform refugees about the upcoming Scottish election! Lots of our International guests are members of Urban: it’s a great place for them to spend time and make friends while they await Home Office decisions. Those who aren’t quite fluent in Glaswegian yet can easily find ways to get involved: music, art, and fitness are universal languages. With the help of Adam, one of our Internationals workers, I was able to compile a list of guests who are eligible to vote. This is thanks to a very recent change in Scottish law, so we knew many guests wouldn’t know about this right. I contacted the Scottish Refugee Council, who agreed to offer two Zoom sessions to explain the voting process. Fourteen guests attended. A few had already registered to vote but didn’t know what to do on the day. For some, my invitation was the first time they discovered that they have this opportunity. One man, older than me, told me that he has never voted before – in any country. I was honoured to be able to help three people register online and I look forward to many spirited political debates in the months to come!