Invaluable Help Through Peer To Peer Advice

A pleasant busy evening with 53 people being fed burgers and wedges. I think every bit of food went. The apple sauce cake and custard for pudding were well received with many people saying how delicious it was.

Coffee And Doughnuts

We were visited this evening by Rob and Lisa, PC’s from the Newbury neighbourhood team. They stayed for a while and chatted to lots of people, with the running gag from the clients being that they only came for the free coffee and doughnuts. Hopefully, they will be visiting regularly and will continue to be a support to us.

Alcohol Abuse

Several people appeared to be quite intoxicated tonight and there was a lingering aroma of marijuana outside the front doors. Mai-Britt was great at encouraging people not to sit under the tree nor drink alcohol near the hall. She is tactful, fair but clear and decisive. The clients listened to her and did as they were asked without any issues.

One of our regular visitors came in very drunk and loud tonight.  She did need to be asked to leave but again went without issue. It is difficult as we do not want to turn anyone away but have to keep control of the session. People who come in who are noisy and disruptive can upset others in the building so we have to make a judgement call each week. The level of units consumed by many of our clients is astounding. Swanswell does an amazing job locally to support people.  It is a difficult journey and has to be handled in a professional and safe manner. For a heavy drinker, it is dangerous to go “cold turkey”. Alcoholics need a lot of support and compassion. 

Examples of units in common drinks


Schizophrenia is very distressing for people who are suffering from it if it is not under control. A regular client was not in a good place tonight. We get to know our clients very well. If they come in distressed we do our best to sit with them and listen to them to settle them down and help them feel more settled. Usually, people leave happier and fed, knowing that they will always receive care, compassion and someone to talk to. 

Peer to Peer Advice

A man who has been coming into the Soup Kitchen since the first session who was a rough sleeper is now in the hostel. He is hoping he has done enough to prove himself where he is to be moved on to the less structured environment. He says he is paying his rent on time and behaving himself. He especially wants to be able to cook for himself which he can’t do where he is. He has been researching about nutrition and mental health and is keen to be able to cook for himself and become more independent. It is wonderful to see how someone we have known since the beginning doing so well, we are very proud of him. 

It was a great help speaking to another rough sleeper tonight.  The peer to peer advice and support they can give to each other his heartwarming at times, and so valuable. 

We have one peer to peer volunteer now and hopefully, after Christmas, we will have another. We have to make sure the person we chose as a peer to peer worker is settled in their own lives and can cope with stressful situations in the Soup Kitchen in a caring and professional manner. Their experience is invaluable to us but we must make the decision very carefully. We train them up and give them more responsibility over a long period of time, we work at their pace to ensure everyone is happy. 

Eight Bells

We got to know this rough sleeping young lad back in the spring in the Soup Kitchen but Meryl has known him a few years through volunteering in the Foodbank. He has had a few jobs doing stewarding for events up and down the country. Unfortunately, his long-term battles with mental health and substance abuse have seen him stuck in a 10-year cycle involving taking a couple of steps forward and then ‘screwing it up’ – his words. He’s found his way back to Newbury recently and is sleeping rough. It was a real education for Emma listening to his story. 

For him, it is clear that a roof and a job aren’t enough to help him long-term without dealing with some of his underlying issues. It just creates more pressure for him and more to kick himself over when he can’t sustain it. We gently suggested that checking out Eight Bells might be good. He seemed quite receptive to this as many of the clients speak so highly of the service and especially Kathryn we really hope he decides to go along. 

Wet Conditions

One couple is really struggling with rough sleeping. Their mattress got wet in the heavy rains and hasn’t dried out properly and their tent is apparently in bad condition.  Where they are staying is now starting to attract rats. It has started to affect their health. They are both feeling unwell, run down and one of them is having a bad eczema flare up. They are hoping that they will be able to go into Two Saints soon where there is a double room Double rooms do not come up very often but they try to accommodate people as much they can with the resources they have.

Small Sofa Request

Our other couple who are now in the hostel are in need of a good quality small sofa for their room to make them home more homely. They are settling in well after rough sleeping for so long. They are very grateful to everyone who has helped them. The Soup Kitchen volunteers have donated items to make them feel at home, little touches make a difference. 

Pot Noodles

We are still hoping for donations of Pot Noodles, please. Pot Noodles are easy to store and easy to use and eat around a campfire. The plastic pots keep the food fresh and they do not get damp unlike other food in tents.

And Finally...

One of our regular came in beaming with pride and showed us a clean urine test result from Swanswell. The feeling of pride and achievement is overwhelming. We are so proud of this person’s progress. Having a clean urine test means there is drug abstinence. This is a huge achievement for this person. It made our evening.