Last week was so quiet in comparison to other weeks, we were unsure how busy it would be this week. As it turned out it was another quietish night with 34 people in. Jan did an amazing Green Thai Curry with Paneer and a Sag Aloo Curry that was vegetarian and dairy free, this was with rice and poppadoms. Many people came for seconds and thirds. To give people another break from apples we served rice pudding with Jam.
A tense night, many volunteers felt the same. There were many incidents occurring at one which at any time could escalate into something more complicated.
We had so many donations this week from Waitrose. It will help us provide some lovely meals over the next few weeks. We value the support from the supermarkets as we cannot provide the meals we do without their support.
One of our clients has had no electricity since before Christmas. His accommodation is full of mould as he is unable to afford heating. His landlord will not help as they say that heating the property is the only way to deal with the problem. Through this, there are related health issues. Every situation of hopelessness leads to more depression and mental health problems causing health issues and the need to drink more. It is a cycle that is hard to break.
Blue Light Users
Some of our clients are long-term drinkers who find it difficult to engage with services. When someone is homeless or at risk of homelessness it can be very difficult and distressing. They arrive often looking very yellow and with symptoms associated with long-term alcohol addiction. People who fall into this category are called Blue Light Users. They flit often between ambulance, police, and other services that cost a lot of money nationally to keep going. It is often difficult to decide whether a candidate would benefit under the MEAM or BLUE LIGHT cohort. Some clients may not be rough sleepers but are at risk of homelessness often begging to find money for utilities and other needs.
We had to call an ambulance this evening which occasionally happens. A client was brought in very drunk, clients can develop alcohol-induced epilepsy which is always a concern for us. Our first aid volunteers took control one of which is a paramedic. The team that arrived were not a local ambulance team so it was made clear of the vulnerability of this person to ensure they were taken to the hospital. As quite common this person was released a few hours later into the cold with nowhere to go. Residential care for long-term non-engaging drinkers is very rare. People are always at risk, especially this time of year. Healthwatch is working hard to build a plan with the hospitals not to discharge very vulnerable people at night.
To keep warm this time of year a few of our client find warm places that are open late so they can sit out of the cold. Public houses can often be those places, unfortunately, and often understandably they are asked to leave due to his hygiene and appearance. We do our best to provide thermals, warm clothing and flasks of hot drinks. Due to the overwhelming donations this winter we have plenty of supplies to last us throughout the winter. We work hard to ensure people leave the Soup Kitchen with plenty of warm clothing. Clothes get lost and discarded easily especially if people have chaotic lifestyles.
Furniture Project to the Rescue
A client well known to the Soup Kitchen came in before we opened. Their cooker has stopped working and is fusing the whole block of flats and the cooker has been smoking. Apparently, the landlords will not send anyone around to solve the problem, as they need to source an electrician themselves. Meryl spoke to Kelvin at the Community Furniture Project and he is going to organise another cooker. This person has been told not to touch the wiring and get an electrician as it is potentially dangerous, unfortunately, people on Universal Credit or other benefits do not always have the money or reliable contacts to do this safely. The Community Furniture Project have also sourced an electrician too. They provide amazing support for the Soup Kitchen and our clients, so as always a big thank you.
Mai-Britt who is a dual diagnosis trained volunteer works very closely and has a good relationship with another of our long-term clients. Mai-Britt always washes his hands as they usually really filthy, this week was no exception. His face was very dirty too. His pupils looked ok and he was not showing signs of hyperglycemia (appearance of being very drunk) even though he said he had been drinking a lot today. We did not smell alcohol particularly on him. We talked to him about his eating as we are trying to encourage better eating habits and for him to reduce his drinking. Again alcohol is so destructive to the mind and body. When rough sleepers and homeless people have underlying health issues their addiction will often exacerbate other symptoms. We try to encourage clients to drink water and choose healthy food, difficult but all we can do is try to continuously educate.
One of our volunteers brought in a hula hoop. She had been talking last week about hobbies and interests to try to engage some of our clients. It went down very well and cheered up the evening enormously. We will wait however until the weather is better to do it outside due to lack of space. A great five minutes had by some. We try to make the sessions light-hearted and cheery to give our clients a social friendly evening.
We value all the support the local community and volunteers give us throughout the year. We cannot do everything we do without continued kindness of people who provide compassion and kindness.
As 2019 continues we can all help the vulnerable in our society in different ways. The volunteer bureau is always looking for volunteers. They also have an open day Saturday, January 12th 10am-3pm at the Corn Exchange Newbury. It is wonderful to give something back. It really is.