Among the online apps that have become important during the pandemic, Nexdoor is at the forefront.

Unofficial spokesperson for the Nextdoor in Hastings and St Leonards is Dave Smith, who launched the COVID-19 support group and is also moderating it.

He says: “I just wanted somewhere that local people could find friendly, local help whilst in self-isolation but without being as ‘public’ as Facebook. The response has been amazing.” 

He explained that Nextdoor has set up a ‘volunteer map’ for each district so people in need can find local help. “The last time I checked the combined map for the Hastings area, we had over 50 volunteers offering everything from dog walking to collecting shopping or simply a friendly chat on the phone.”

Commenting on the work that Hastings Emergency Action Response Team are doing, he made it clear that he didn’t see it as competition. “It’s a situation where so many need help that each group needs to be able to do its own thing.” He thinks they’re doing a great job and “if there was a situation we could not deal with, any of us would happily refer on”. 

Dave points out that Coronavirus has resulted in a massive boost in the Nextdoor membership, with well over 700 joining in recent weeks so that now over 4,000 households are registered in the Hastings area. “As sad as the COVID-19 crisis is, it has brought people together, and problems are dealt with as a community rather than alone.”

Ironically, Dave is currently in the second week of self-isolation, as his partner has had the virus. He’s therefore been restricted to admin and moderation of the group rather than getting out and helping, “but having so many volunteers, that hasn’t been an issue”. 

He feels that much of their help has been verbal, rather than physical. “On many occasions people just have questions about shopping, whether they should be phoning NHS 111, asking who to phone because their boiler has broken down, which store has loo rolls in stock or similar queries.” On the group page he has also provided links and phone numbers which may be useful during this pandemic.

“Now we are all in lockdown … we are all beginning to understand the frustrations of losing our freedom and the need to talk to somebody,” he says.

Dave would encourage every household in the town and surrounding areas to join Nextdoor, and not just to find help during this crisis: “When it comes to any issues across the town, like crime and suspicious behaviour, we spread the word before the emergency services have even turned up. Also the more volunteers we have, the better!”

We hope you have enjoyed reading this article. The future of our volunteer led, non-profit publication would be far more secure with the aid of a small donation. You can also support local journalism by becoming a friend of HIP. It only takes a minute and we would be very grateful.