This was one of those sessions where we do not know where to start. It was the fair in Northcroft this evening so we did not put our the board outside so as not to draw attention to ourselves.
We had 48 people in, Bangers and Mash was on the menu with onion gravy, broccoli, apple pie (requested) and crumble with custard.
The sausages were donated by a kind member of the public. She purchased them from Robinsons Foods in Turnpike. They were really tasty and went down a storm.
Jumpers and Tents
Enborne C of E primary school came in again this year. Louise, her sister Vicky and her mum with four children aged 4-9yrs. They arrived with freshly laundered and folded good quality jumpers and lots of food and some great quality tents. The kids were really sweet, we chatted with them and asked them if they knew why they had come to see us and what the food was for. They had had a Harvest Festival assembly and learned a bit about homelessness. We had them in at 5pm before we opened for safeguarding reasons.
Alcohol and Drug Use Challenges
We had been informed earlier on in the day that one of our regular clients was very drunk in town and that an ambulance had been called, but had refused to get in. When we got to the hall to set up for the Soup kitchen it was apparent that this person had come to the hall very drunk and distressed. Talking a lot about a suicide attempt (if you remember from a previous blog this person had contacted Meryl late one Sunday night to say they had taken an overdose of paracetamol and alcohol). Meryl had luckily picked up the message and called 999 to get them to hospital.
This person was sobbing all afternoon so Kevin from the Salvation Army had taken her to the doctors. We have worked closely with this person who is very attached to Meryl and Jan. Over the last nearly two years now she has been a regular visitor.
Now off heroin and down to the 21mg script. The problem now the alcohol consumption has increased due to pain in the jaw. After coming back from the doctors it was explained that all their teeth need to be removed. Long term drug and alcohol use with a bad diet often results in dramatic teeth loss. Many of our clients ignore the signs of tooth pain and use alcohol and drugs to mask that pain. This is a vicious circle, many people also do not want to go to the dentist or find it difficult to get dental care as they do not have benefits so cannot get free dental care. Some just have too much of a phobia to turn up to appointments and eventually are banned from the practice. We have an arrangement with the lovely team at Newbury Hospital that if necessary we can organise treatment of people who have dropped off the radar.
Emotions and Tempers Bubble Over
Last night an altercation happened outside. It was over as quickly as it had started. A man was punched outside out of view. Quickly our volunteers intervened to make sure everyone was safe and the situation finished as quickly as it started. The perpetrators left quickly and unfortunately so did the man that been hit. He would not stay to be checked over. We did call the police and they came. When they arrived the people had gone but it was important for us to know that the police would keep an eye out for him and check on him.
Unfortunately, within the rough sleeper community arguments happen. Every day is a struggle, every day is exhausting, everyday people are searching for food, money, drugs, trust, companionship, warmth and friendship. These things are difficult often to find and difficult to keep. As a result emotions and tempers bubble over. Often these things are a flash in the pan, sometimes feuds can go on for a while, however.
A Safe Sanctuary For All
These altercations unsettle other rough sleepers and clients who use the Soup Kitchen. One, in particular, was angry that bad behaviour outside the hall could risk the future of the Soup Kitchen. We work very hard with the police and people who are in the immediate vicinity to make sure they are happy. We talk and educate our clients about consequences and actions. This person who in the past has been antisocial herself outside was cross that our hard work and the facility we have built could be ruined by the bad behaviour of a few.
It’s important that we have a good relationship with the Police to ensure that the Soup Kitchen is a safe place for all. We appreciate their support very much. One of our volunteers is a PCSO who volunteers on and off duty. We would not be without her.
Some weeks the volunteers outside do not have much to do it but have to have people everywhere, situations can escalate at any time. Our volunteers are such a strong united team they all rally together. Every week different situations arise and each week we just get on with it and sort situations as they come up.
One of our clients Mother recently passed away. Sadly there is no money for a funeral, this client gets worried and confused about money and is in a position that they are the one who needs to sort out the funeral. Many people who use our services struggle to deal with money effectively. Meryl sat down so they could put together a list of questions for the funeral director. It’s such a shame that they are not grieving they are fixating on the cost of the funeral and how they are going to pay for it. Meryl worked out that this person has only has £48 per month to live on once bills and rent is paid, her tax is double that! There is some support for people in this situation but it is having the knowledge to know what is available. Hopefully, list of questions helped.
Donations are starting to come in a bit now, probably as a result from the article in the NWN last week. We have put together a wish list as people are starting to ask us what the Soup Kitchen requires. We hope this will help.