Our First Session Back

I thought you would want to know how our first Newbury Soup Kitchen session for nearly six months went. 

Up until now we have been feeding people in emergency accommodation on a delivery basis. We have provided nearly 5,000 meals. 

Now the hotels are emptying and the people from them are being housed it is time to get back out onto the streets and work with more people that need us.

It has been a long 5-6 months providing food 7 days a week, and we are having to adapt again and rework what we do because of COVID and new restrictions – it is a little stressful. 

It is our first week with the new Salvation Army officer Alex who has come down to this Corps to improve the running and the services they hold. We are very lucky to have the support of the Salvation Army who allow us to use their building.  It was important to give a good first impression and I think we did that. The volunteers on the rota tonight were absolutely amazing and just did what they do so well. It ran beautifully and they just got on with it all as if we had not had a break from this routine at all. 

Julie had cooked the food in advance, which was the best thing to do, this meant we could be quicker with getting the food outside into take away bags for people to pick up and leave.  We kept the menu simple and that worked really well. This week the menu was Vegetarian Lasagne and chocolate flapjacks and custard. The two volunteers in the kitchen were also on standby provide hotdogs in case we ran out of Lasagne. 

We only have an hour to set up now each week as the hall has to be cleaned more thoroughly before we arrive by the previous Employment Plus outreach session. This means getting the tea urn hot and the oven up to temperature was challenging but we did get everything ready just in time other than a short wait for the Lasagne to heat up to the correct temperature. 

We had 19 clients which was good for week one. These numbers will increase rapidly as the word gets around. There were quite a few who arrived and sat by the bench drinking. Meryl had to talk to them a few times and this, with new social distancing and groups of 6, will have to be strongly discouraged.  We had people queueing around the side of the building which is a new system and was difficult for people to understand and work with, but we will have to persevere as they cannot queue outside the nursery next door.  We have red floor markers for social distancing. It will be down to the persistence of the volunteers to get the system slick and safe and they are definitely up to the challenge.  

For us it is important to keep the volunteers and clients safe, we will have no hesitation in asking for the support of the police should we need to disperse people who are not sticking to Government Guidelines. 

Some people we work with have found the lockdown incredibly difficult and came to see us for support. We had to phone the CRISIS line and 101 for someone extremely distressed. The police as always are incredibly supportive of Newbury Soup Kitchen and even though they are stretched to capacity came to help. We could not get through to the CRISIS team and we were on hold with 101 for a while as they are so busy. This in itself highlights the need for the extra support we can give to individuals.  

Supermarket donations are down massively and for the first time ever we are having to purchase most of our fresh food for the meals we cook. This is unprecedented for us and we know other charities are doing the same. Newbury Soup Kitchen has always prided itself on using purely donated food and we work on a “Ready Steady Cook” ethos, always making meals from the sometimes ‘hotch potch’ of food we get. It is fun to do and extremely satisfying too. COVID has changed all that for us, shopping habits by the public have changed and less reduced items come our way as they are snapped up by the public. The only item we always have an abundance of is bread! 

Until we are able to get into the Salvation Army building properly, we fear it’s going to be a difficult long winter. We intend to be out in all weathers which is going to make social distancing difficult as people will not want to queue in the rain. It is going to be challenging and we will have to adapt as the winter goes on and hope we can get back into the building properly to provide our sit-down outreach sessions and meals soon. This we fear will be not at least until the spring if we are lucky.

Our Saturday Sessions will be opening again this week too. We are looking for a couple of volunteers for a Saturday willing to drive the transit van (over 25 with a clean licence) willing to commit to biweekly and happy to be outside in all weathers throughout the winter months. The sessions are wonderful, and you will meet so many lovely people and the support and kindness that you can provide in this role makes such a difference to people’s lives. Experience ideal, a DBS for vulnerable adults will need to be undertaken and references will be checked. Training for First Aid and Food Hygiene will be provided also. 

We have updated our Amazon Wishlist https://amzn.to/2fYwyJz which has items that we use every week for the sessions and also items such as tents and sleeping bags that will help support rough sleepers throughout the winter. With items such as this we are also able to support the council and hostel outreach workers who can come to our new unit and help themselves to anything, they need for vulnerable people we all work with. Collaboration is key and now we have storage and facilities in one place we can do this more effectively.  Your donations matter and make a difference to people’s lives. 

Our project on The Good Exchange is an easy way to donate https://app.thegoodexchange.com/project/18016 on this also you can read up about us a bit more.

Facebook has a donation button which is at the top of this link and you can reach our Just Giving donation page here.  http://www.justgiving.com/haven-westberkshire

We appreciate your patience with us too, especially from the noise and sometimes incidents that occur on a Thursday in Northcroft Lane during the sessions. We will work with our clients to keep these to a minimum. 

We try and say thank you personally to donations as much as we can, but we would like to say THANK YOU for all the support you give us, without the help and patience from the Community we cannot do what we do. 

Thank you to Judith Lion for making the wonderful face masks that we wore in the session this week.  We have had others in too that will be distributed to volunteers and clients. Thank you all so much for your wonderful handy work and time.