4 June 2021

Advice around Covid-19 is changing daily and for most, self-isolating at home is something that is possible and fairly easy to do. Not for the 148 residents at the YMCA in Romford.

Doctor Anil Mehta gives the AstraZeneca vaccine to a homeless person at the homeless accommodation YMCA in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. The British health service NHS England have started with doctor Mehta and his team to vaccinate homeless ‘vulnerable’ people. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
A hostel built in the 1960s, the residents share bathrooms and eat in a communal dining room. Usually this creates a friendly and homely atmosphere but the coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation.

Director of Housing, Brian Cooke, explained: “We asked all residents to advise if they have somewhere else they can go for the short term, that would enable them to self-isolate, but many don’t have that option. We’ve also found that available advice has been limited about what to do – we’re in an unusual situation, where our residents share facilities.

“For our residents who present with Covid-19 symptoms, we have taken measures to support them with self-isolation. Each residential floor has two bathrooms so one has been designated for those with symptoms. We’re also offering room service, providing breakfast, lunch and dinner to those affected.”

While the residents need to be the priority, the YMCA is a community and members, visitors and staff also need to be considered.

The Diner is the main hub for social groups to convene and enjoy a drink, lunch and a chat, and the difficult decision to close this for the time being has been made. Similarly the gym and fitness classes have been closed on site – however all is not lost.

“We’ve been working really hard to keep our fitness provision going as much as possible,” explained Viki Bainsfair, Health & Wellbeing Manager. “We know how important it is to keep your mental health strong during times of difficulty and we’re offering our members online access to classes and workouts they can do at home for a fraction of the cost of their usual membership fee.”

As a charity, the YMCA will be affected by the closure of its core services but one incredibly positive outcome is the way the residents have responded. Brian explained: “So many of our residents either study or work, and are now staying in the hostel due to the lockdown. However, they are keen to help our neighbours and their fellow residents. There have been offers of help to pick up cleaning duties, as many of our current cleaning team fall into the vulnerable category; offers of picking up shopping for those that live near to the YMCA buildings; as well as the suggestion that they create online training videos for the gym members. The sense of community here is one I’m really proud of.”

Our centres have also been overwhelmed by donations made by local businesses during the past week. McDonald’s donated chilled stock in both Romford and Dartford, TK Maxx donated lots of goodies to our Romford residents and our Dartford site was delighted to receive a bumper gift of food from Nando’s Bluewater too. Food was be shared between residents and our nurseries who are still caring for children of key workers at this time.

Waterstones in Romford, who normally donate to children’s book libraries, provided a number of books for our residents, and Lush in Romford have provided 150 bars of soap for the residents too.

The YMCA in Romford and Temple Hill, Dartford, will continue to offer childcare to key workers and space is available between 8am-6pm for children aged 6months to 11 years. Simply email qualitychildcare@ymcatg.org if you are a key worker and need childcare help.