Very busy evening (37 in total) especially when you consider that some of our regulars did not come in now they are in housing. Some still do and they enjoy the social side and the continued support we give. A few new faces and some we have not seen for a while.
LACK OF MEDICAL CARE
Tonight was full of a lot of complex problems. We feel incredibly frustrated and useless sometimes. Some of these issues are so complicated we cannot solve or do not always know which way to turn. Most issues are due to money, whether it is benefits issues or lack of medical care from sanctioning and the inability to access dentists, doctors etc as they have no money to pay for prescriptions or dental treatment. It worries us that continued lack of access to medical care could put lives at risk or at least some people live with terrible tooth pain. For instance, Keith has a raging toothache and chest issues, yesterday we did cover the cost for two inhaler prescriptions as he had nothing and no funds to pay for it. Emma, our lovely first aider does such an amazing job will fill out all the relevant forms to get him free dental help. However, as it is not yet infected the appointment will probably take two weeks. He can only go to minor injuries at the hospital if it gets much worse. If he was not sanctioned he could go to the dentist. One of our other clients previously pulled out his own tooth as the pain was so bad and he could not access quick free dental care.
Someone who is NFA (No fixed abode) will not receive mail or have Internet so they are sanctioned and lose any money they may have. This makes their situation way worse especially access to medical care that we all take for granted this is compounded by no ID which has often been lost or stolen. With no money, they cannot replace their ID so they drop out of society further.
Homelessness continues, we had two new people in this evening and again a sweet man who came in last week. James is looking after him. He is very grubby. I gave him a washing token last week and sleeping bag etc he hasn’t yet been to the launderette. This week he requested a tent so I think that means he is intending to stay in the area.
A young lad from Hull who turned up early, actually before we opened was very hungry and nervous. He did not want to sit and eat with anyone. He has been sleeping in doorways apparently. I gave him a tent etc too. He does not know the area and was unsure of a safe place to sleep. Hopefully one of the homeless who has just been housed can advise him.
ROUGH SLEEPING FINE
One of our rough sleepers came in again this evening. He obviously has decided the Soup Kitchen is not as bad as he thought. He had found out that the new Government initiative to get rid of rough sleeping by fining them £100 etc and moving them on. He is very worried what that means for him. We will find out what we can for him.
One of our regulars came in very happy this evening. They have been clean from heroin one year and four months and a few days. Obviously very proud and I’m glad has done so well. It is difficult when constantly surrounded by people who try to tempt them back. A different person from the one who turned up to us on our second session last year facing eviction and self-harming when we were so new to the experiences of addiction and desperation. Wow, we have all come a long way.
BURGERS AND GAMES
We had “Wagu” burgers this evening. They went down very well. Simon was very interested to hear that the cow is massaged to make the beef tender. It cheered up his evening no end! He is a proper traveller, he goes off for a while then comes back. He said he’s going on his holidays (walkabout) for a week then coming back for Ian Campbell’s memorial service.
Lorna brought more games in this evening. We now have a big box upstairs of things to play. It’s great to break the ice, calm people down and encourage conversation. She sat down with our Italian man who speaks virtually no English and played noughts and crosses with him and drew pictures to help him they had fun. He is a quiet not always easy man but Lorna was patient and kind. I think they both had fun.
LAPTOPS, BIKES AND LAUNDRY
Last week I put an appeal on Facebook for help with repairing a laptop for the man who does all our graphics who until recently has been homeless two and a half years. We had over 16,000 views! Through that, a lovely man called Brian came forward who fixed the laptop in a day. He put a new screen on for him. Through the appeal, I have had a couple more laptops through so hopefully we can get them fixed and hand them on to someone else who will benefit. We will continually need more as people get back to work and off the streets.
I think I have someone who will look over bikes for us for free and fix them at cost they are called TR Cycle repairs. Penny Post in Hungerford is an online paper they are going to raise funds hopefully to pay for parts.
The Laundry basket in Newbury are so kind, they offer us Laundry tokens that we can give out, up to two a week for a full wash and dry for a homeless or vulnerable person. It makes such a difference to a someone’s self-esteem if they are cleaner.
Julia from SEAP which is a support and Advocacy service sat all evening and coped with so many difficult cases. It is wonderful to have her experience and expertise each week. Problems again are money, rent, housing and lack of ID so someone can get basic requirements such as a bank account so they can start to apply for benefits or work. Some people through HMRC and other organisations just do not exist.
So many people do amazing things behind the scenes of the Soup kitchen to allow us to do our job better and better each week. For example, a wonderful retired man, each month buys us something from our wish list if he has a small win from his premium bonds be it coffee, spoons, cups or plates. We are constantly overwhelmed by people’s generosity and support towards our Soup Kitchen. Thank you, Newbury and West Berkshire, for believing in us.
I thought it would be much quieter tonight as some of our regular clients are now in accommodation. However, we had 31 people in throughout the evening. New people seem to find their way to us each week for good food, comfort and friendship. There will always be a need for places like the Soup Kitchen and Loose Ends to support the more vulnerable people in society. This cannot be done without the amazing volunteers who give up time from their busy lives and their families to help us. I’m so thankful for that.
FOOD AND DRINK
Today we were offered 80 2 litre pints of milk with a date of 14th March from a local dairy called Milk and More. As they were in date I could give them out. We accepted 40 so we managed to distribute them to local charities and the people that have recently been housed.
Chicken curry tonight and bread and butter pudding which went down well, Thorngrove is buying a commercial freezer for us to freeze more of our food donations as the supermarkets are so generous.
We had a new chap in this evening. He is homeless and has been since December. Luke has taken him under his wing. Emma our first aider sat down with him and worked out if he was in any physical risk. She has established that he had pending leg issues with ulcers and fluids retention. She is going to keep an eye on him. Hopefully, he will come back next week. I gave him some clothes, bedding, thermals and a laundry token. He’s been homeless on and off all his adult life according to Luke. Apparently, he is a gardener/landscaper by trade. We were surprised he did not know about the Soup Kitchen, Loose Ends or Lou who provides food for the rough sleepers on a Saturday in the wharf at 4pm. We gave him all the information we could so hopefully now he will get food every day.
Tony came in tonight, especially as the shelter has closed. He even ate some bread and butter pudding. He is not someone who usually likes to engage with the Soup Kitchen as he likes to keep himself to himself so that is a huge turnaround for him and us. Maybe is the reputation of Jan’s cooking!!!!
Some of the chaps that have recently been housed came in to see us. The Soup Kitchen is not just about food. They receive friendship and for some, it is some of their social life. They looked so upbeat and even though for some they are still adjusting it is comforting to know they are safe. One of them said today, I just want to get a job, I want someone to believe in me. Many of them seem to like the idea of gardening or landscape work. One of our guys has actually taken some voluntary work to stop the boredom until he finds employment.
This week he also provided some furniture to a couple of the people that have moved into new accommodation. We have been amazed by the generosity of the Newbury residents. They are pretty much sorted now I think. Life needs to calm down a bit for them now so they can settle into their new accommodation and get used to living together. It’s been a whirlwind for them.
This week we did an appeal for help with mending a laptop for the man who does all our graphic work. He has been a rough sleeper for two and a half years. He is now in accommodation and getting his life back on track. We have been overwhelmed with kindness and generosity with lots of offers of repairs and replacements.
The appeal page itself has had over 12,500 views which is staggering. It shows what a great town we live in. Hopefully, through this some of our other recently housed people will receive something too. Then they can look for work etc much more easily.
A lovely scene this evening, of one of our guests playing clock patience. We chatted about the memories we both had about being taught and playing clock patience with our grandmothers. He likes playing single card games, Lorna is going to teach him some more next week. It was lovely to share memories of our childhood.
This week our Soup kitchen shift started Wednesday at 3pm!
Jan came to Newbury to stay because of the threat of the impending weather and concerns that she would not get into Newbury ready for the Thursday shift so we decided it was best for her to stay in town the night before. For the first time we did the supermarket donation pick ups together.
We had 26 clients in this evening and I was surprised to see a few had made the effort to come down from Two Saints.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
A lovely thing happened this evening; Jack and Thomas turned up to help us set us as they were concerned that we may be short of volunteers due to the weather. Jack often helps with the tables but I was so touched by their support. We actually witnessed Thomas handing out sandwiches by passing a tray about that was great to see. The rough sleepers enjoy supporting and helping us and I know that long-term a couple of them will become mentors for other vulnerable people.
There have again been so many acts of kindness. Due to the weather, everyone just mucked in. Jack and Thomas helped set and clear up. Thomas came with me to Prett to pick up the food donation, luckily we had found out they were closing at 4pm. Christine and Richard tackled Wendan road hill and a stuck van to get to us and to pick up the Greggs food. Sam came down the A4 out of her way to get the Greggs food, it wasn’t her week either to pick it up.
Many of our volunteers braved treacherous driving conditions to get to us. We have been so touched as some volunteers came with their partners to ensure we had enough cover.
VOICE FOR OUR VULNERABLE
Julia from SEAP came in this evening. She has kindly offered to come in every week to sit with her laptop and to try to help and be a voice for our vulnerable. She can help clients who need support fighting benefits, housing, eviction worries, court appearances, medical complaints and advocacy services she is the one to signpost people too. Brilliant!
NIGHT SHELTER CLOSES
The night shelter has now closed. Most of the service users will be moving onto accommodation. It will be interesting how many will continue to use the Soup Kitchen. The Soup Kitchen may be quieter for a while. I’m so happy to see how excited however nervous of the new chapter in their lives. A few however through choice will be going back into tents.
It has been on my mind for a while and actually Marc mentioned to me last night the idea of recycling our cups. He is going to give it some thought and see what we can do. I know Costa locally will take them (rinsed). It’s a great idea if we can get every one board.
Murphy, Paul and Aaron from the council made the time to come around to find the Soup Kitchen and to grit outside the hall. They did it with pleasure and a huge smile. We want to say thank you.