• York Rotary

Changing Lives - the effects of COVID

Graham Wilford reports...


On August 27th we were very fortunate to have James Ford talk to the Club. James is the Service Manager for Changing Lives – the charity that has the contract with City of York Council to provide services for the homeless and others who are going through extremely difficult times in their lives.


He was York born and has spent the whole of his career in this service sector, initially with Arclight, the charity which formerly had the York contract. The latter established the Arclight Centre in Union Terrace, which he now manages for Changing Lives, along with a second hostel in Walmgate.




Providing services to their clients - many of whom have very complex needs – requires dedication and determination, which clearly James, his staff and their volunteers have in abundance.


Arclight Centre

The focus of James talk was on the effect that Covid had on the services they provide. It was as he said uncharted territory, on how to maintain the services for the 43 residents of the Arclight Centre, the Walmgate Hostel and the many others in the community who rely on the help of Changing Lives.


Whilst he and his staff were classed as key workers, they rapidly found the facilities provided by other organisations which Changing Lives relied upon, were either strictly limited or unavailable from being in lockdown, leading to impromptu arrangements having to be made. One change they had to make - instead of communal dining – which also provides one of the main social interaction opportunities for their clients - it had to be food purchased from outside takeaway sources and then served to their clients in their rooms, adding to the loneliness many were already experiencing.



They were as James described, scary times, for he and his staff knowing so little about how best to deal with the uncertainties of the pandemic, but yet having to look after their clients very basic needs. It was indeed humbling to Rotarians present, to appreciate the willingness of those providing the services, to put themselves at risk in doing so. James very ably answered a wide range of questions, highlighting the difficulties they had encountered but had had to be overcome in providing such a wide range of services to those in desperate need and so keeping to their philosophy of ‘changing people’s lives’ for the better.


Further information about Changing Lives can be found at www.changing-lives.org.uk/about-us/

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