Again a full-on evening, however only 48!!! It is amazing how our numbers now are consistently in the 40’s. Admittedly many clients are not street homeless however their need is just as great. Many people just come in for the social life and company.
Jan excelled herself with a “beef and mushroom pasta bake” and potato salad. We have been donated lots of eggs and potatoes lately from the supermarkets. Potato salad goes down really well, Jan puts eggs in it to boost omega 3 levels in our client’s diets.
Risk of losing home
One of our clients who is a known user was under the influence of something, very loud and desperate to talk to me on and off all evening. Richard popped in to see her. He is the solicitor who works with legal aid clients, he has helped two of our other clients from being evicted from their homes. This client is at great risk of losing their home due to anti-social behaviour etc. Richard has been fighting to get this client to engage. As a result of his frustration, he came in this evening. Not recognising or understanding the enormity of the situation with both of us trying to explain our client sacked him. Without Richards support this person will undoubtedly become homeless. This clients is obviously distressed and frustrated with the life they have now but does not recognise they need to engage with the help that has been provided. Richard has had no choice but to remove himself from her services.
Court Date for Broken Bail
Another client has a court date looming. Sadly he has broken his bail conditions so as I understand it he will go to court and potentially get
10 months at least. He is under the CRISIS team and I think he will get support from them. He’s a great guy and we worry about him. We have been working with him closely and he has been engaging with the support he has been offered. Sadly he will lose his lovely home. I hope the judge will take pity on him. He is getting support out here and he is so vulnerable, we talked about using the time constructively and to ask for support if he gets a custodial sentence.
Some of us volunteer in The Foodbank, and this week I helped a lady who needed help with her dog. Mai-Britt some time ago registered the Soup Kitchen with the Dogs Trust. They will help street homeless and homeless people with care for their animals.
This means anyone in a hostel or sofa surfing, as well as street homeless, can get the care they require. We have to apply on their behalf. This lady is sofa surfing. They have a debt with a vet which they have been unable to pay. She cannot afford the consultation now for her dog or ongoing medication along with the debt.
We have managed to sort out care for her dog which is amazing. This will save her quite a lot of money a month as she is only on Universal Credit. This will stop a huge amount of stress as I believe her dog has heart failure.
Julia our wonderful volunteer from SEAP will write to the vet and negotiate a basic repayment plan. People who are on benefits, homeless etc often bury their head in the sand as they do not know which way to turn. Having Julia from SEAP is an amazing service as she is able to support many of our clients and also be a voice for them.
We have this week lifted a huge amount of stress off a lady just by listening and finding the help she needed. We now have a huge support network behind us of charities and statutory services that help us to do the job we do.
Fines to Pay
Another client went to court this week. He was very scared and VERY remorseful. He is now at least engaging with Eight Bells and will be going to Swanswell. His benefits need looking at. He was sanctioned months ago and various people have looked at his benefits for him. They can be very complicated. He now has a court fine to pay with no money coming in. It is a vicious circle. Julia has been helping him too. It is often frustrating for us working with the clients that we come very fond of as they do not always engage due to mental health, addictions or fear.
We are very lucky to have a new volunteer on board who is a recently retired GP. She sat and talked to a client of ours who we think is schizophrenic. She sees and hears voices and spends all her time exhausted and frightened. She has paranoia and is untrusting of anyone in authority. She feels safe with us and each week we talk about anything other than her mental illness. Sadly her life would be so much easier for her if she recognised her illness and accepted some help. Our retired GP is so calm and approachable. As she gets to know the clients more maybe we can break down some barriers further.
We had a new Police Sergeant in this evening, Simon White. Phil brought him in to meet us. He has moved on from the custody suit so a result he knows many of our clients. He wants to support us as much as he can. I suggested he volunteered when he is off duty and hand around sandwiches and get to know the clients in a social environment. He promises not to come in and arrest anyone in the hall!! For me that a number one rule, the Soup Kitchen should be a place of safety and support for all who come in and use the services.
We need more stuff!!
We have run out of rucksacks, bike locks, flasks and head torches. Our street homeless rely on these items hugely. Our Amazon wish list is up and running all the time and easy to use. We appreciate the donations that come through to us and are always overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community.
At the end of the session when everyone has cleared up Phil one of our volunteers was hoovering up. Phil volunteers for us now, he was one of our ex-street homeless. A graphic designer by trade and the man who does all our graphics now. He was donated a laptop when he was still living in a multi-storey car park. Through support from our volunteers and other homeless charities such as Loose Ends and West Berkshire Homeless, he has managed to start the journey to turn his life around. He provides valuable peer to peer support to our new often young street homeless. Many of them look up to him and trust him. He is a voice of reason and is good as defusing situations if they arise. He’s seen it, done it and lived it. Now he is a valued member of our team. He good at hoovering too!
We have an amazing team of people. Without them, the Soup Kitchen would not be what it is.