Some sessions are just filled with incidents that require all volunteers to be vigilant, have lots of diplomacy, patience and prepared to use all the skills that we have to ensure everyone is safe and remain safe. This week definitely kept us on our toes.
Lots of food this week, that fed the 39 people who came through the door. Beautiful cauliflower soup, steak pie, with mash, peas and onion gravy. A vegetarian option of nut roast then chocolate sponge pudding with pears and blueberries along with the staple potato salad, which is very popular.
At the beginning of the evening, a couple if volunteers commented on how quiet and calm it was. Within minutes the atmosphere changed. Whereas most people were beautifully behaved, charming in fact, it didn’t stop however others that were very feisty. All it takes is one incident to disrupt the whole session. We think the sunshine encourages people to come out, hang around town, or the park, drink and socialise. We haven’t seen the sun and had warmth for a while, the pub outside area was full of people enjoying the sunshine, and our clients are no different.
PTSD, Behaviours In The Soup Kitchen
Certain people react to things in an explosive manner. Dealing with them and having the skills to de-escalate their behaviour as quickly as possible, while at the same time supporting them is sometimes very challenging. Our clients usually apologise after an event when we discuss consequences and actions. We try and keep people calm in difficult situations, controlling them, as we are aware of people walking past. Bad language and noisy antisocial behaviour can give the wrong impression of the clients we work with and the Soup Kitchen. Many people struggle to control their behaviour even though they know it is inappropriate. It is virtually never at the volunteers it is at life generally. Frustrations of their situation and emotions from past experiences affect their behaviour. Lots of people have PTSD Post Traumatic Stress disorder.
One client this evening provided appropriate intervention and support for us with two people who were disruptive, that helped enormously. We see gestures of support and help given towards the Soup Kitchen all the time, as people know how hard we work to provide this service. They do not like disruptive behaviour either.
Alcohol is often the addiction that causes the most challenging behaviour for us. A client was across the canal drinking, shouting and singing. He eventually turned up with a litre bottle of spiced rum (we think that is what it was) of which there was a couple of inches at the bottom. When people are really drunk they can be challenging to handle. Alcohol makes some people very aggressive and others very noisy. Luckily this evening it was the latter. It is difficult asking an exceptionally drunk person to give up their bottle of drink. We cannot dispose of it as it is not our property but we can take it away and keep it safe.
It took time but we did manage to get him to eat a meal and drink water. We had to keep him outside for the safety of others. Actually he just wanted to tell us all how much he thought of us all and that certain volunteers were his best friends. He does not appreciate personal space and it was difficult to keep him calm and not invasive of space. Mai-Britt’s training came into place as she has worked with incredibly challenging people throughout her career. Also the same client that had helped us earlier in the evening also helped us keep him under control and calm.
We find that different people have a different “ceiling level” of what is appropriate, what is a safeguarding issue and safety concerns.
A person whose life is surrounded by homelessness, alcohol, and addiction generally take a lot of outbursts and incidents in their stride. For some people they are often it seems totally unaware of a situation very close to them as they are so used to it.
We have called Safeguarding or CRISIS for instance in the past. What we feel is shocking and concerning such as self-harming incidents or recent marks can be seen to people who work with this every day less alarming. Our ceiling is lower sometimes then others. This can cause us frustration as we cannot cure and help everyone; we just do the best we can by getting to know people, gaining trust and peeling the layers away of mistrust and sadness.
Our Community Group
The campsite has had notice from the Council that they are going to court on the 16th to evict them. This has been coming for a long time and some charities and statutory organisations are trying to house some rough sleepers. When the night shelter closes send of April more people will come back out into tents. It is good to know some people have been housed and getting support. As in the past some people will move from the campsite to another location. We have to put ourselves in their shoes and be non judgemental and understanding. To have NO home and a fear of engaging with organisations and refusal to live in the Hostel for whatever reason forces them into a tents therefore this is all they have. They will move to another location, as they have no other option as they see it.
The volunteers were all amazing tonight the team who always stay outside, keeping us all safe – ready to jump into action should it have been needed. Meryl really appreciates that. The whole team always rally together to ensure all bases are covered and everyone is safe.
Every week we have a hairdresser and now a chiropodist come in to give their services and time for free. This personal service is another way of gaining people’s trust and confidence.
Cath has arranged a recycling bucket for cans and plastic bottles. We are trying to educate and encourage people to be more responsible. We think it’s a great idea to encourage that. At some point someone will scrape their left over dinner into it but we will persevere. A proper recycling bin would be very useful. The Salvation Army do not have recycling facilities so we have to deal with our own rubbish and recycling. We recycle what we can; our Amazon Wish list always has items that we require, as we grow the wish list changes. Now Christmas is over as Meryl said in her article “Homeless is not just for Christmas” donations have reduced enormously. We are having very little through from out Wish List. Please tell people about our project on The Good Exchange. We are going to ramp up our efforts ready to find a building that is bigger to support our requirements. We love being at the Salvation Army building but unfortunately is getting too small for what we are doing and the services we are starting to provide. For that we will need rent, running costs and everything that involves running a charity. The Good Exchange are match funding donations for our project at the moment. We even have the facility to accept Standing Orders from kind donators too.
The night shelter closes in two weeks. We have stocks of tents, sleeping bags etc ready to help and support people where we can.
We survived a difficult but very rewarding session. 39 people fed and cared for. Emotionally, physically and socially. Through tears and sadness for some there was plenty of laughter for others.
We are so proud of what the Soup Kitchen has become and it’s growing future.
Feeding people Thursday 6-8pm and Saturday in the Wharf 4-5pm. and outreach throughout the week, rain or shine.