Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund helps keep the heating on this winter

The Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund, set up by developer Hopkins Homes, is available to those in need across East Anglia. Fifty thousand pounds of the fund has been pledged to Suffolk with £30,000 already put forward as a match fund for Suffolk Community Foundation's Surviving Winter Campaign.

The remaining £20,000 is allocated as a Rapid Intervention Fund. This allows grants to be made to those in acute need of help with bills or other measures to keep their households warm this winter.

Reach Community Projects in Haverhill has already distributed over 44 of these small grants, worth a total of almost £5,000, to households referred to its foodbank.

One such grant has been given to Helen, a resident of Haverhill. Following an accident Helen's husband has been in hospital for over a year. Once discharged he is unlikely to be able to work again and the couple will need to move to a modified bungalow.

The stress and worry caused by the situation took a heavy toll on Helen whose mental wellbeing suffered, leading to a period of long-term sick leave from her job. Helen was struggling with the paperwork needed to secure the move to their new home and her physical health was also suffering as she neglected to eat properly due to the stress.

Helen was put in touch with Reach by a concerned friend and the team was able to work with her to complete the forms, supplied her with food from the foodbank and used money from Hopkins Homes' winter crisis fund to supply fuel vouchers.

Helen said: "I was feeling utterly overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork and forms I had to complete, this combined with the stress of worrying about my husband and dealing with all the household bills and other demands meant that I was feeling very isolated and vulnerable.

"Reach has helped me so much, not just with the forms but by arranging for some support with food and fuel bills. My husband and I have a lot of challenges ahead but I'm so grateful for the support I've received so far."

Reach's Projects Director, Henry Wilson MBE said: "There are so many like Helen whose story is a reminder that circumstances can change in an instant. We have a lot of experience navigating the housing and benefits system so have been able to help her in this way. Thanks to the Hopkins Winter Crisis fund we have also been able to ensure that Helen and many of our other clients are able to keep warm in the cold weather, allowing us to combine this with food from our foodbank and deliver a full package of support."

Another family that benefitted from the Winter Crisis Fund is Kevin and his young son, Billy. Kevin was put in contact with Reach nearly five years ago when he found himself in serious debt and suffering with mental health issues that left him unable to leave the house.

Reach was able to provide Kevin with assistance to help with his debt and enough food to feed himself and Billy, whilst he got back on his feet. This Christmas Reach used money from the Winter Crisis Fund to carpet parts of Kevin's house.

Kevin said: "We have never had any new carpets before. I am so grateful for everything Reach has done for us and for the donation that's given us the carpet for the stairs and landing. This has made a huge difference to our lives. Billy's home is now much safer for him and it's now more comfortable for the both of us."

During a visit to Reach's new foodbank warehouse, Joshua Hopkins of the Hopkins Charitable Fund said: "I'm very grateful to Helen and Kevin for meeting me today and sharing their stories. I'm pleased to hear they have both received such comprehensive support from Reach and that grants from our fund have had a positive impact on their wellbeing this winter.

"Our intention with the Winter Crisis Fund was to alleviate the pressures faced by many in trying to balance their household bills. I find it profoundly shocking that there are people in our region having to face the choice between heating their homes or putting food on the table for their family. I hope that our fund can go some way to supporting those in this situation this winter."

The Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund is administered by the Suffolk Community Foundation, Tim Holder, Head of Public Affairs said: "It's not just elderly people suffering as the weather turns colder, a recent report from the Rowntree Foundation found that a number of working people living in poverty is rising, affecting families, children and single households.

"It's fantastic that the Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund has committed £20,000 to Suffolk for immediate distribution as small grants to give emergency support to those in acute need."

Henry Wilson continued: "Anyone is need of support this winter should contact us at the Reach Resource Centre on 01440 268003 Monday to Friday between 2pm and 5pm."

For further information about the Hopkins Winter Crisis Fund visit hopkinshomescharity.co.uk or to donate to the Surviving Winter Campaign visit suffolkcf.org or call 01473 602602.