7 ways you can help others during the coronavirus crisis

Megan Sutton
Photo credit: Becky Wass - Getty Images

From Good Housekeeping

The information below is correct at the time of publication. Advice may change so stay abreast with guidance.

At this extremely difficult time of health fears, strained hospitals, food stockpiling and social distancing due to coronavirus, it’s natural to zone in on the concerns you have for yourself and those closest to you. After all, the best interests of the ones we love are what many of us hold nearest to our hearts.

But, it’s important not to forget others – your neighbours, your wider community, and strangers you might never even meet. With such anxiety and uncertainly looming over the whole world, now’s the perfect time to exercise empathy and reach out to help other people, especially those who are vulnerable due to risk factors like being over the age of 70 and having underlying health conditions.

While many of us are staying at home most or all of the time, there are still things we can do to spread love and hope. Here are some ideas…

Support foodbanks

Foodbanks play a vital role in supplying people and families in need with food, toiletries and other essential resources. In the UK, the largest foodbank network is the Trussell Trust. At this time, the Trussell Trust is urging people who can safely do so to continue supporting their effort.

“Time and again over the past decade, foodbanks across the UK – aided by a generous public who have donated time, food and money – have stepped up to protect people on the lowest incomes in our communities. But with the spread of coronavirus we all now face an unprecedented challenge and uncertain future. It is possible that foodbanks will face increased demand as people lose income, at the same time as food donations drop or staff and volunteers are unavailable, due to measures rightly put in place to slow the spread of infection. All of this comes when foodbanks are already dealing with a record level of need for emergency food,” said Emma Revie, chief executive of Trussell Trust.

A spokesperson for the charity added:

“Generally, foodbanks sometimes run low on certain items but we have not heard from any foodbank in our network that they are currently running out of all food donations. We will continue to monitor this closely and are working on how we can support as the situation unfolds. In the meantime, we encourage the public to continue donating after checking with their local foodbank which items are most needed.”

You can locate your local foodbank and find out which items they’re most in need of here.

Support the homeless

Those who are homeless and sleeping rough are clearly very vulnerable at any point in time, but especially in the midst of a pandemic, they cannot be forgotten about.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the charity Crisis said:

“We need emergency action to protect people in this very vulnerable situation – this must include testing and access to housing. Let’s not forget that the average age of death of someone who is homeless is 45, substantially lower than the general population. Given the obvious vulnerability, the only answer can be to provide housing that allows people to self-isolate.”

While this responsibility falls to the those in power like governments, there are things we can do as individuals.

“The real responsibility to protect people experiencing homelessness in this outbreak sits with national governments and local councils, supported by homelessness charities. One of the biggest issues that people who are sleeping rough, or living in shelters and hostels, face is that they can’t self-isolate and national governments need to provide emergency accommodation for this to happen,” a spokesperson for Crisis explained.

“However, there are things that people can do to help. The most obvious is giving high quality, antibacterial hand sanitiser as people sleeping on the streets may be unable to regularly wash their hands. People can also ask someone they see sleeping rough if they need anything - it could be a hot drink or food. They may also need warm clothing, like hats, scarfs or gloves.

“Most importantly, we’d encourage anyone who sees someone sleeping rough to contact Streetlink (in England & Wales), or the local council in Scotland, to connect that person with the homelessness services in their area. If there are immediate concerns about someone’s health and welfare, people should call 999.”

Support older people

The national advice is currently that people over the age of 70 could very soon be expected to “shield” themselves from society for up to 12 weeks. With that in mind, we can all be thinking about ways to keep older people feeling connected, loved and supported during a time lacking in physical contact.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said: “There are some simple steps we can all take that will make a huge the difference in, what may prove to be, some difficult weeks and months ahead.

“First and foremost, it will be important to make sure older and more vulnerable people have the things they need to stay safe and well at home. Picking up some shopping, prescriptions or running some errands could be a major help. However, we also know that staying home alone creates its own risks. In particular the risk of becoming physically inactive and of a growing sense of loneliness and isolation which might occur after a prolonged period indoors. Doing what we can to encourage older people to stay physically active at home and ensuring they remain connected and included will be essential. This could mean making sure people have what they need to keep going with their hobbies and interests, for example going to libraries for older people, or items that can help with hobbies, like wool if they are knitters.

“It might also be time to think creatively about ways for people to stay in contact with each other and keep morale up. You can also stay in touch over the phone, online or by post. Other than the usual routes of communication, one other example could be a neighbourly Book Club dial-in. It might turn out that some of these options turn out to be a good way to nip loneliness in the bud in the long-term as well.

“What’s crucial is finding ways to keep people informed and in contact in a way which is low risk and ensuring older and more vulnerable people are protected. As these events unfold and we know more about what’s to come the advice may well change, so it’s important to keep up to date with reliable sources of information such as the NHS or Age UK website.”

Donate blood

As the NHS prepares for the ongoing strain of coronavirus on its systems, it’s urging people to continue the vital act of donating blood.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson said: “Our stock levels are good and we don’t believe we’ve seen any effect on appointments so far. We need donors to keep donating as normal and to follow the latest health, hygiene and travel advice. Donation will help keep stocks healthy so we are well prepared for the coronavirus. We’re regularly reviewing the situation and working closely with the DHSC, PHE, and the UK’s other blood donation services. We're putting in place extra safety measures and safety is always our number one priority.”

Support small businesses

The UK Government has "strongly advised" the public against visiting bars, pubs, restaurants and theatres, although it hasn’t – as of yet – formally closed those venues. In these challenging times for small, independent businesses, it’s important to keep supporting them, even if that’s from afar.

Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses National Chairman, said:

“Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and the coronavirus represents a serious threat to them. The drop in footfall and a reluctance to go out means less trade, with smaller businesses finding themselves less and less able to deal with the financial impact.

“As consumers, it’s important that we do all we can to help them stay afloat and support them through these troubling times.

“Our high streets are populated with independent businesses so support them by opting to do your weekly shop there. If your supermarket has run out of supplies, you could try your independent grocery store or local pharmacist, instead. If you are self-isolating, you can do your bit by buying a gift card or shopping online.”

Check in on your neighbours

It’s a time when community spirit is needed more than ever, so reaching out to your neighbours is key.

Good Neighbours is a network of locally run community groups, and Nick Ralph - secretary to the Good Neighbours Co-ordinating Committee – has some advice for those looking to become more involved in their community.

“We would encourage people to ask after their neighbours. Without communities coming together, there are some people who will struggle severely. It will require some people accepting that they may need the courage to ask for help when they would not usually dream of asking. It will require local people to offer to help,” Nick said.

“We are all going to have to adjust our behaviour and look out for each other. That seems to me to be entirely in the spirit of being a good neighbour.”

Nick urges a sense of solidarity in these times, and therefore recommends people should sign up to be involved in the Good Neighbours network if they can.

“We need to try to avoid setting up lots of groups doing the same thing. It will help if people can do this together,” he said.

Support the arts

We know that with theatre and gallery closures and music concerts postponed, the arts and culture industry is taking a huge hit at the hands of coronavirus.

Thankfully, there are things we can do to help.

“If there’s a cultural organisation you would like to support then speak to them about how you can help – there are many options including donating online or buying an annual membership, so see what feels right for you,” a spokesperson for The Arts Council said.

You might also consider purchasing items online including merchandise from artists, musicians and other cultural organisations.

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Photo credit: Hearst Owned

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