We had 44 people in tonight and seemed very busy very quickly. It felt much busier that then numbers suggest and as always we had to deal with with so many different scenarios throughout the evening.
Foodwise we had Polish sausage tomato pasta bake that was amazing, crumble…and for a change rice pudding and Jam. This afternoon, however, Lisa from Tesco Metro phoned Meryl to say that one of their freezers had broken. This freezer holds all of the part-baked bread, pastries and fruit pies. As a result, Lisa did an 11-hour shift to bake everything so it would not be thrown away. Lisa came with her boyfriend when they delivered it in their car so we didn’t have to get it. There was a fair amount left over after the session so we donated it to the Foodbank, Mencap and Two Saints.
Autumn "Out and About" Magazine
Fiona and her colleague from the NWN came to interview us for the Autumn “Out and About” magazine. They both spoke to clients and volunteers. In fact, Fiona stayed until the end of the session which was great. She was blown away by the atmosphere and the people she spoke to. It will be good publicity for the homeless and will an opportunity for them to put their story forward. As the winter approaches it is important for the local community to be aware of the plight of the rough sleepers, we are glad that so many people wanted to talk to Fiona.
We were in the paper this week. Meryl wrote an article about the children coming in from Enborne school. Educating our children is a wonderful way of changing the long-term views of rough sleeping and how and why it happens. Compassion and respect for all that’s what is important.
Often during a session incidents happen that we have to deal with quickly. One of our clients had tripped on the way to us and smashed their face. They were wearing dentures as so many of our clients do. As a result of the fall, their dentures had broken and cut their mouth badly. Emma, as usual, rose to the occasion and managed to support them and stop the bleeding from the nose which was excessive. This person was not prepared to receive any medical help other than basic first aid. Our PCSO knows this person well and helped calm them down.
Eventually, it was agreed that three volunteers were to take this person and her partner home as they were very shaken. We chose the volunteers carefully as to be able to provide support and safety but also not leave the Soup Kitchen vulnerable should another incident arise. We have to make important and sometimes difficult decisions to keep everyone safe. Our safeguarding is paramount and the safety of our clients and volunteers is always the priority.
Every week new scenarios happen, we are proud of the fact that we all rally around and just deal with it. It makes it very obvious though that we must always have a fully trained first aider on site each week. All the volunteers take their roles very seriously. Even a towel being held up to protect the dignity of the person who was bleeding was thought of as we do not have a screen we can use.
A new client who has lost his job that had accommodation with it. He is wayfaring at the moment. He was smartly dressed and a bit shell-shocked by his predicament. He talked about the life he was used to and the trappings of that life that he still had to pay for. He unlike many has training, experience in his field and wherewithal to find work relatively easily. He has a good CV, too with all this behind him he has ended up homeless. It can happen to anyone.
A young lady who is rough sleeping came in with bruising all over her face. We sit down and listen to them and if they want to tell us what happened that is great but we are happy to just sit and listen in a non-judgemental way and support them in whatever way they want. Trust is something we have to gain from clients. Rough sleepers become faceless, personality-less shadows of society. It never ceases to amaze us when we hear the stories of people we sit with, the lives they have led. They often talk about before their lives before and after drugs or alcohol or homelessness. Some of our clients have degrees, good qualifications and incredible skills. For one reason or another, they have become trapped in a cycle often through no fault of their own. Family row, relationship breakup, loss of business it is not always through drugs and alcohol as people usually perceive it to be.
We have a lady who has been coming in since we opened in January 2017. She has the symptoms of schizophrenia but has not been to a doctor for years. Through fear of doctors, social services and paranoia she will not accept that she needs to see a doctor. Previous experiences in her life and her perception of those incidents stop her seeking help. This terrible illness causes her to live in a world of fear, sleep deprivation, delusions, disorganised speech, disordered conversations and behaviour. As a result, she is behind on her rent, cannot afford to pay for heating and electricity most of the time and cannot afford her bedroom tax. Her life is in such chaos that she is always paying arrears off from bills so she has little money to live on.
Due to her illness, she cannot see a way to get help as she trusts no one. Through this, she is living a chaotic life which leads to more stress and anxiety. She would get extra support if she went to the doctors to get a PIP (Personal independent payment) but she is so frightened she will not go to the doctors. Her fear is overwhelming. Sadly medical support would make such a difference to her life. We see people spiralling downwards with no one to catch them as they do not have the means to engage but they are not bad enough to be treated in hospital as they are not a danger to themselves or others. People like this can often end up homeless due to rent arrears. We have homeless clients who have serious mental health issues who do not fit into certain boxes, cannot make decisions for themselves but due to illness are unable to engage effectively in order to get the support they need.
Two of our rough sleepers came in to say goodbye. They wanted to say thank us for our support. They are going up North, apparently moving into a boat and leaving the area permanently. They said they will send some pictures to show us when they get there. We wish them good luck and hope their new lives together will be happy and more settled. We get to know so many people with different stories over months and even years and it’s wonderful to see them moving onto better things and improving their lives. We wish them well.
It was Jan’s birthday this week. Jan volunteers weekly in the kitchen and has done so since the beginning. She had tried to avoid the subject and questions for about three weeks now. We think she thought we had forgotten. Christine and Richard came in with a cake even though they were not on shift which was so lovely. We all sang happy birthday, even though Jan initially tried to stay in the kitchen. Meryl had passed a note around the room so everyone knew the cake was arriving and that we are going to sing. It was kept secret by everyone in the hall so that was great.
Donations, Donations, Donations
Donations of clothes are starting to come in thick and fast now the weather is getting colder. We have limited storage space so would appreciate ONLY male and female thick winter coats, sweatshirts, thick jumpers, jogging bottoms, gilets, long-sleeved t-shirts and men’s Lycra boxer shorts. Good quality walking boots sizes 8-12 for men and 4-7 for women. Please donate other clothes and items to local charity shops. Community spirit in Thatcham high street is very supportive of the Soup Kitchen and their money goes back to the community.
We appreciate all the support we get from the local community. Please remember there is no food facility on a Saturday for the rough sleepers. Please buy them a hot drink and a pasty or a sandwich. Our rough sleepers are a great bunch of people and we want the community to help us help them. Thank you.