We had 40 in this evening, considering we were five volunteers down for various reasons. There were no major incidents and actually everything ran smoothly. Having such a large amount of volunteers to call on allowed us to sort out cover quickly.
You may have seen on Facebook that our graphic designer (who was homeless himself) came up with the idea of doing a weekly “Jan’s specials” menu board post. It is another way of getting us out to the public and keeping the subject of homelessness and rough sleeping in everyone’s minds.
Jan was a little concerned that we would be inundated with people wanting food and we would not be able to cope though most of our clients do not follow us on Facebook as they do not have internet. However, it has had a good response from the people who have seen it. He even put a white brick wall background on it to look like the interior of the walls of the hall itself. We had bangers and mash with onion gravy this evening. The sausages were donated by Daniel from the company Texas BBQ, he has donated burgers too.
BUSINESS PLANNING HELP
Through a Facebook blog this week we have arranged a meeting with someone who has kindly offered to help put together a business plan and give advice to one of our regular clients who wants to set up a gardening, allotment and vegetable scheme involving the elderly and homeless/vulnerable to engage them, stop loneliness and to educate and enthuse people. He has some great ideas. Our graphic designer will do the logo and we already have someone on board who will help with a basic website.
He’s so enthusiastic and it has given him such a buzz. He’s such a different lad from the angry, untrusting one we had in the Soup kitchen in January 2017. He has come such a long way. At some point, he will need tools, seeds, support and advice. He is actively researching his options.
One of our regular clients was very down this week. He says that he really looks forward to the Soup Kitchen each week. He was very frustrated this evening, angry really. He has benefit issues and other issues with bills. He was sanctioned a long time ago and up until now has been unable to sort it out. Benefit delays and sanctioning cause so much upset and despair which can affect mental health in so many people. Our wonderful volunteer who works for SEAP is making such a difference. She is bogged down with clients who need her help nevertheless she is working very hard to help some people with their individual problems.
STRUGGLES WITH ALCOHOL
One client came in who last week was very drunk and does not remember anything from that evening. Mai-Britt had a chat with him about his behaviour and conduct. He seemed genuinely sorry and embarrassed. He told us that Thursday evening is a highlight of his week. He knows now that he will be asked to leave and possibly banned for a bit if he does it again. Mai-Britt has established a good relationship with him and so many or our challenging clients. He is trying very hard to improve his actions and life. The other day he said to me also that he wants to start living rather than existing! It is a daily struggle for some to get through life with mental health issues. Alcohol is often used to block out other issues they may be living with.
This week three of us went to get some white goods kindly donated by a member of the public. These items will make a difference for two of our clients who have nothing and moving into new accommodation.
We need an electrician quickly to go and install the oven preferably this weekend. We have a volunteer to PAT test items for us. We also have a carpet for his flat too. He is then sorted and much happier.
We have a couple of people with a van now but may need the option of more as it is important not to overload the same people and take advantage of people’s generosity.
We are in need of a good quality clean washing machine for someone who was homeless last year and has now at last moved into his own accommodation. We will need to PAT Test it for safety. Please contact if you are able to help us.
FUNDING SUPPORT FOR BIKES
Penny Post this week has put an article in her online paper requesting bikes and funding to support TR Cycles who will fix them and make them road safe for cost, he gives his time for free. Bikes are a lifeline for the homeless and rough sleeping community. Without any form of transport, they are unable to get to appointments, work and to charities for support. It is a worthwhile cause.
We dealt with a new client this evening. He is sleeping in a churchyard on a bench. We sorted him out with shower and laundry tokens and some more clothes as he desperately needed them. Another of our clients have started to support him and help him. Every week someone new comes in. The desperation and fear often displayed is very sad to see. They are often frightened to come initially. We do our best to offer compassion and friendship and a listening ear. With the outreach, we have established and networking we are still doing we hope to improve their situation ongoing rather than just being a sticking plaster to the problem.
It is easy to forget that many homeless people are not sleeping out on the streets. They sofa surf, sometimes not knowing where they will stay from one night to the next. The stress and anxiety this puts already vulnerable people under is enormous. We try to help with all types of homelessness, working with other charities locally to help reduce the numbers and help improve their predicament.
TRUST AND RESPECT
Many of our clients do not trust or have family they trust or indeed respect. They have started to build bonds, respect and trust with people in the Soup Kitchen. It has not taken money or grand gestures, all it has taken is a bit of kindness and a lot of time and continuity.
The Soup Kitchen has become a place where people can come for a hot drink, food, but also the support and kindness from a wonderful bunch of hard-working volunteers. For some trust comes very slowly, but we see small but significant changes in many of our clients week on week.
Before setting up the Soup Kitchen I was apprehensive, scared at times and unsure. With no experience with mental health, addictions and homelessness it was a rollercoaster experience. I am so proud of what it has become. Our clients (guests) are wonderful, funny engaging people who just need a little compassion, friendship and to be heard. After all is that not what most of us want?
A humbling, lovely thing happened this evening. One of our regulars turned up this evening and was hovering outside. He asked me to give Jan a present. When I saw what it was I refused and asked him to come in with me to give it to her himself. He has whittled her a staff. It is beautiful and he has obviously taken hours and hours on it. He told me that he was so grateful for the lovely things she had done for him when he had nothing. He said we have all given so much. This was the only way he knew to show Jan his gratitude. She will use it every day when walking her dogs.