In the midst of fear and uncertainty across the globe, one thing is certain - that there are those who are ready, willing and able to help.
Response from across the city to the challenges presented by Covid-19 has been overwhelming and local groups are coming together to ensure people in need have food on their tables and essential medicines at home.
All efforts are being coordinated by HIVE Portsmouth in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning Group and key groups in the city, including Pompey in the Community, the Salvation Army, Age UK and the food banks to name a few. Victorious Events is supporting volunteer coordination and marketing and communications.
As well as delivering the first wave of food parcels for the 'extremely vulnerable' identified as part of the Government's shielding programme, the group's goal is to get food and medicine to the most vulnerable in our city. Over the last 2 weeks 56 emergency (on the day) food parcels have been delivered to people's doorsteps and a further 632 vulnerable people have been supported with their food via colleagues at the Salvation Army and Age UK Portsmouth.
This has only been possible through the generous support of people and organisations in the city, including food donations from Portsmouth City Council and Portsmouth Football Club and businesses including Bookers, Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury's in Farlington, Prazerers Portgugese Deli, Andres Café, Cafe De Casto, Marina Bar collection, Quattro and Spar Fratton. Local McDonalds and KFC branches have donated food when they shut their restaurants, and the YouTrust and St Simons Church food banks donated their left over food before closing their doors. Le Creuset in Gunwharf Quays has donated carrier bags, and Tesco in Fratton is donating fruit and veg bags to allow us to split up donations. On top of that, £2800 in cash donations were received via the HIVE Portsmouth website by the general public to support the service.
Canon Bob White, vicar at St Mary's Church in Fratton and Chair of HIVE Portsmouth's board of directors, said: "Our priority is getting essentials to those that need it most. We know that people in Portsmouth are keen to lend a hand, and we're stepping up to make sure we make the most of everyone's enthusiasm.
"We've been so overwhelmed by the response from across the city. I'd like to reassure people that are worried about getting hold of food - there's plenty available, and we're hard at work to make sure it gets where it needs to be."
Portsmouth City Council, the Portsmouth CCG and HIVE Portsmouth are also working with community pharmacies and the You Trust social prescribing team to get medicines out to those who struggle to get to pharmacies themselves.
The current priority is to get help to those most in need and HIVE Portsmouth is coordinating resources from across the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector as well as reaching out to existing volunteers. HIVE Portsmouth has a bank of 426 volunteers and has been working with Victorious Events, who have helped check those volunteers for DBS checks, driving, car ownership etc meaning these volunteers are ready to be deployed and a further 60 existing voluntary organisations in the city have offered support, including churches across the board who are continuing to support the most vulnerable.
Cllr Steve Pitt, Cabinet Member for Culture and City Development & Deputy Leader said:
"We have seen an overwhelming response of companies and individuals in Portsmouth ready to help those in need during these uncertain times. It is a true testament to the sense of community in our city. I would like to thank the HIVE Portsmouth and all organisations involved for the effort and speed in which resources have been pulled together and am grateful that we are able to help our most vulnerable.
"We urge everyone to follow the latest government advice and check the council website for the latest local information."
The next step will be to set up local community coordinators who can direct the activity of a local bank of volunteers to make sure that people aren't falling through the cracks.
People who are in need for support can contact HIVE Portsmouth's helpline on 023 9261 6709.
There is also a dedicated number in place for people with no internet access to get the latest information about coronavirus and how it is affecting council services, as well as talking about getting extra help if they are self-isolating, by calling the council's dedicated support line on 023 9268 8004.