Helping the homeless and keeping a business afloat in lockdown

27 April 2020
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A Wensleydale business which made headlines for helping the homeless has shared advice on navigating the coronavirus crisis.

The Jonas Centre, currently closed to the public, is providing self-contained cabins to homeless households during the pandemic.

Simon Eastwood, Director, said: “When this crisis began, I knew we were going to have to shut down. I wrote off all bookings until December, which is about £160,000. Rather than leave the cabins empty, I reached out to Richmondshire District Council to offer accommodation. We currently have five people on the site who were homeless, with a volunteer, and it’s going good.”

As emergency government funding became available for businesses, Simon successfully applied for a £25,000 hospitality grant. He has also made the decision to furlough six staff.

He said: “My days are now split between running the business and looking at how to get more funding. My advice to other businesses would be to make sure you’re aware of all the emergency funding available, what your local council can offer, and making sure you are prepared for when you are applying for support. I’ve spoken with some who weren’t aware of key things – such as a freeze on our business rates. I stay on top of this by looking at the Gov.uk website and signing up to mailing lists of other sources of support.”

Simon says he has mapped out the likely financial picture for the business until April 2021.

He said: “While nobody knows when this will end, you still have to plan ahead. You can get your business ready for when this lifts. The digital offer is big – this is a good time to improve websites and social media. With so many people working remotely now, more will be tech-savvy. In our sector, that could mean a change in the way people look for breaks and make bookings in the future, so it’s best to be prepared.”

The Jonas Centre, which opened in 1996, has a dozen self-catering cabins set-up to cater for individuals, groups and families. This includes a subsidised holiday scheme to offer low-cost breaks for vulnerable people.  It is operated by The Jonas Trust, which has a charitable status.  

Simon added: “Around a third of our income has traditionally been through donations. We had an incredible response to an appeal we put out, with over £24,000 being donated so far. We’re so grateful for that support.”

For more, visit: www.jonascentre.org

Simon is also vice-chairman of the Lower Wensleydale Business Network, which now covers Bedale, Leyburn and the surrounding areas. The organisation was established to:

Support the development of existing businesses.

Promote the establishment of new businesses.

Develop and promote a business friendly environment.

Business and networking events are held regularly. These events allow members the opportunity to showcase their businesses, discuss business issues and share information with other members in a relaxed and friendly environment.

For further information, visit: www.lwbusinessnetwork.co.uk

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