Tales from the front line: ‘It’s a bit of a privilege doing something like this’

The Chichester EHP redeployed to feed the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis.
21 April 2020 , Sarah Campbell

Ralph Walling, a senior EH officer at Chichester District Council, has been seconded to a local homelessness charity, Stonepillow, along with eight council colleagues until further notice. There, he is cooking and distributing food to about 45 rough sleepers who have been found accommodation during the pandemic. He told EHN Extra about his new job:

“When the lockdown was announced, like a lot of councils Chichester’s emergency plan ensured the community’s needs came first. I’m in the environmental protection team, so doing planning applications, noise nuisance, licensing, that kind of stuff. And we didn’t need everyone in my team to be doing that day job really.

"Stonepillow already works closely with the council, helping to provide accommodation for rough sleepers and homeless people. They asked the council for help, and I was really happy to go – although I didn’t actually know what I was going to be doing until I got here.

"My role is basically cooking, preparing, arranging and delivering food to people who have been provided with emergency accommodation. The charity usually provides food for people at their day centre but because of social distancing restrictions alternative arrangements have had to be made. So suddenly there’s lots of donations, which is fantastic, and suddenly lots of people to be fed daily either with fresh, ready-to-eat food because they don’t have cooking facilities, or a periodic food box of fresh and dried and tinned goods that will last several days.

“It’s a bit of a privilege to be able to do something like this. It’s also good to be busy and to be able to go out and about, although it’s surprisingly absorbing in terms of your mental space. Over the weekend I was thinking ‘Oh crikey we’ve got to do something with all those chickens on Monday.’

“It’s all new to me, although I can cook and I can drive so that was a good starting point. The EH background is useful in terms of understanding food labelling, shelf lives and safe cooking and storage. It’s good to have those skills and that knowledge among the group of us."

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