This week we started at 3.45pm Amanda from the HOLT (Health Outreach Liaison Team) came in for her first session. It will take time to make people aware of this service, but we are confident that people will use it. One of our clients came to Amanda and had a chat. Having someone come and see her during the first week is a positive start. When we talk to people they do say they will use the service. Sometimes it is a question of routine and habit. We just have to keep raising awareness and spread the word. Having a nurse on board is amazing.
We had 36 in this evening which is think is the quietest session we have had for a while. Having said that it was a great atmosphere. No incidents, which was great.
Jan cooked curried Parsnip Soup, meatballs in pasta with a tomato sauce, potato salad, paneer vegetarian curry and Meryl did apple plum and pear crumble with custard. There was some left over but everyone ate very, very well.
Local companies support us all the time, and The FlowerPot Cafe are no exception. Unfortunately this week they were broken in to and our charity pot emptied. We wish to say thank you to people who have gone into the cafe, bought a coffee to support them and donated money for the Soup Kitchen. All donations go towards helping the people locally who are in need. Thank you.
Crime Training & Learning
This week we had training on Vulnerability, Exploitation and Safeguarding through Thames Valley Police. A large part of the training that was relevant to The Soup Kitchen is County Lines Crime. This is when drug dealers move from one county to another to buy, sell, exploit and abuse people in order to make money. It is harder for Police Forces to track movements when these dealers move around so much. The dealers are often one step ahead from the Police, changing tactics and using different methods of exploiting vulnerable people.
In 2017 Police awareness of County Lines operations were 720, now there are over 2,000. It is estimated that one gang operating can be dealing with minimum of £800,000 – £1,000.000 a year turnover. The National Crime Agency estimate that Gang related Crime in this country is a £500,000,000 industry.
Gang members will target any vulnerable person whether it is a child or an adult. We have to be careful in the Soup Kitchen and watch for new people we do not recognise, people who hang around outside and generally keep our ears and eyes open.
Gang related crime will cover most aspects of crime: Modern day Slavery, Sexual exploitation and abuse, Intimidation, Debt bondage (owing amounts money you can never pay), Trafficking (moving people, for money, sex and exploitation) and Cookooing (taking over a vulnerable persons property to use as a base).
The police can only work off information. So it is up to us, the public, statutory and charitable organisations to watch for signs and give the police information, however small. Your information maybe the jigsaw piece they need.
Cookooing is an increasing problem. Vulnerable people, often women on their own, or with children, will be targeted by gangs or individuals who will move in and start operations from the property. We have clients who are at risk all the time so we always take time to listen and talk to them. Often lonely women will be sucked in with the friendship or attention they receive. Once these gangs move in it is difficult for the police to track them or indeed become aware of them. Hidden crime.
Our Community Outreach
Susan our new podiatrist will be coming next week. Now the weather has been getting warmer some of the rough sleepers are starting to have problems with their feet. When people are rough sleeping they do not get the opportunity to take their shoes and socks off very often. This causes Athletes Foot from wearing damp socks and shoes from sweating in the heat or getting wet in the rain. We are appealing for Athlete foot powder, good quality men’s trainers sizes 9-11, and summer sandals. It will definitely help getting their feet out in the fresh air through the summer months. All donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army hall from 3.45pm on a Thursday until 5.30pm. The Salvation Army shop will also take them on our behalf. For ease we have put Athlete Foot Powder on our Amazon Wish list. With Amazon Smile we can also get 0.5% Commission on any order through Amazon too. You can choose HAVEN (West Berkshire) as your chosen charity. That commission will be used for the Soup Kitchen.
Over the time we have been open we have seen how people’s lives change and for many improve. One client in particular has changed so dramatically it is a pleasure to see. When we first met them they were smoking crack cocaine daily. They would come in every week often disruptive, loud and argumentative. At times it was difficult to handle them and for them to manage their behaviour within the session. Now however they are in a new relationship, a positive one. Both have had a lifetime of heavy drug use and spending time with bad influences and continuously living by and making bad decisions. Between the two of them they are working together. Living a clean life to them both now is so important. Together they are working hard to make decisions to move on in a happy, and very happy, positive way. They hope to move away to start a fresh and get away from the constant pressures that drug use brings. Breaking the cycle is part of the success of sobriety and cleaner living. Our clients are constantly dragged back down by the influences that surround them. It is very hard to be clean when you are surrounded by people who use or drink.
The hope of work in another area, we hope, will allow them to start again, build relationships with family that are fractured and together have a happy future. They are both so excited. They both realise how lucky they are to have lived the life they have done and to have survived. So many people they know have not been so lucky. Watching friends die through overdosing and for one experiencing that themselves is enough to say “enough is enough”. They have mountains to climb. As so many people who live a turbulent life through drug use have this includes housing, debt, mental health etc but they for the first time have more strength as they are together, they have the strength for each other. A relationship without drugs, for them is new, neither has experienced that before.