It was an unusually busy session this week with lots and lots of issues to be dealt with and they all seemed to come at once. In total, we welcomed 44 people through the door and with a full quota of volunteers, together with at least two people coming in that were not expected, mandated a busy evening. There were 20 volunteers. Everyone on rota came in and a few who were not. The volunteers obviously enjoy being at the Soup Kitchen. It is important to have the right amount of volunteers during a session as a sight of too many burgundy tabards may look a bit daunting as the doors open. Our volunteer list is full now so it is great to have such a great committed team.
A young lady who is sofa surfing and rough sleeping was very distressed and extremely tearful, she had slipped and twisted her left ankle that had recently been fractured. Our wonderful first aid volunteer looked at her and it was decided she needed an x-ray. She was taken to Newbury minor injuries by two volunteers. She said she had not eaten for a couple of days either.
This Evening’s Menu
McDonald’s is shut for refurbishment so Greggs had very little this evening. We had plenty of food though, Jan did jacket potatoes and spaghetti bolognese. We had milk cartons from the local dairy, Milk & More and yoghurts that had been donated from Winchcome School. Both donations were the result of the Easter holidays and the local schools being shut. One of our volunteers brought in lots of Easter eggs so they went down very well too.
First Aid & Dental Issues
Our first aid volunteer was busy this evening. A few cuts and grazes as a client had slipped on some gravel and had cuts on his hand. Again the subject of teeth came up again. Many of the clients that come in have teeth issues. Dental care it seems is a luxury treatment for some. Sanctions stop the ability to get treatment and always there is a lot of form filling which some clients struggle with. One client is banned from many dentists as he in the past has continually missed appointments. It is not due to anything other than a terrible phobia. Therefore he does not get the help he so desperately needs. His tooth in the past has become so painful he has pulled it out himself! We have the facility to get free appointments but they take two to three weeks. Emergency immediate dental care is available in Theale but many do not have the money to get there. So they have to wait it out in pain!
Kären our amazing hair dresser was really busy. She loves the conversations and getting to know the clients well. It is a good time to help the clients relax and again hopefully makes them feel valued.
SEAP & Communal Spirit
Our wonderful volunteer from SEAP came in. She manages to help so many people throughout the session. One of our previous homeless came in very happy with there new Alms house but fighting the dreaded Universal Credit. It has put a downer on her new place as she said she still does not feel completely settled and safe. She is such a different person from the one we went to find on the canal this time last year. She looked great. She’s had a tough year, having to use the night shelter as mostly she was the only woman in there. It is particularly tough being female and homeless. The homeless community in Newbury do look out for the women to keep them safe and reassure them. All of the rough sleeper clients that we meet have a strong caring community spirit and look out for each other.
Potential Eviction Issue & Legal Support
One of our regular clients came in to talk to us. She is working hard to keep her home but facing eviction from rent arrears. We have a solicitor now who volunteers his services and helps clients with eviction notices due to rent issues and arrears. He has directly helped two clients keep their homes which is fantastic. Sometimes clients get into issues due to antisocial behaviour, of which they have to tow the line and change their behaviour for which they can seek help. However, many just struggle with the everyday budgeting and understanding of money. It is reassuring that we have the opportunity of support for our clients.
Colin and Tim came in with 10 sleeping bags from Newbury Christadelphians church. They have given us sleeping bags in the past and still have five to give us at a later date. Members of the public are so generous we are constantly overwhelmed. Derek from MOD Aldermaston came in with a donation. He has set up a tuck shop for the police there and gives the money to a few charities each year. He said it was really a result of a few cans of coke here and there!
Last week we wrote about one of our clients who has very distressed about having no washing machine, fridge or cooker. As a result some kind people have come forward and offered these items. We have found a lovely company who have offered to put themselves out to PAT test them. He has his fridge already and will get his washing machine and cooker tomorrow, PAT tested and delivered by volunteers! He still has no carpets at all in his accommodation so walking on bare non sanded floorboards. He is extremely overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community.
Not Just A Soup Kitchen
This week was one of our busiest sessions. Dealing with so many people with their issues and worries which can be intensive and exhausting. However, we do our best to help sort out problems and signpost where and when necessary. We are now not just a Soup kitchen but a hub, a place people can come for support, guidance and outreach. We are expanding our outreach services where we can to provide the best support we can. Over the last fifteen month we have networked hard to build relationships with professional and voluntary sectors so we can help the vulnerable in our local community. It has become a social, caring however noisy place at times. You can sit back and hear the laughter and conversation between the people in the room. They often say how they enjoy the chit chat, board games and support they receive. One of our volunteers said to me recently. It’s not just about Soup!