According to Cath who was on the door this evening, a staggering 31 people signed in within 13 minutes. She said it’s as if they all fell through the door. In the end, we welcomed 44 people in total. So, a busy session as usual, but on the whole a good atmosphere.
On The Menu
We had bangers and mash, roast parsnips and onion gravy along with apple crumble this evening. We still have loads on apples left which are all frozen now. So they will last a few weeks but you’ll be glad to know that next week, we are going to have a break from apples! We are hoping for some donations of rhubarb.
Short Of Volunteers
This evening we were very short of volunteers on our early setup rota. It was a bit of a panic at 5.15pm as there were only four of us. Having volunteers early to set up is difficult but essential. We could do with another early person every week ideally. This week it seems just a coincidence that so many early volunteers were either away or running late. These situations cannot be helped, but it was a bit of a panic to get everything set up on time.
Scott did the Greggs run on his own and Cath went off the do the Prett run on her own. Luckily Matilda arrived in time to go and meet Cath down there. We need two people to do each pick up on foot as there is usually so much. There was a lot of food donated from the supermarkets and food outlets this week, loads of bread again from Waitrose Thatcham.
Substantial Beating And Kind Gestures
A bit of an upsetting night tonight one of our clients came in filthy and in floods of tears. He was very upset if you remember two weeks ago. This week he has come in with injuries from a substantial beating that he has received. Matilda and Emma took him into the little room to have a look at him and established that he has cracked ribs. He is very scared and in a lot of pain. Most of his possessions have been taken.
Wonderful gestures of kindness can come about when rough sleepers are surrounded with hopelessness. Two people who have nothing, have taken him quietly tonight to safety and will look after him. He will be safe there. Emma our first aid volunteer said:
We cannot solve all his problems, but tonight he had food, clean clothes, a new tent, rucksack, sleeping bag, roll mat, clean clothes, a new SIM, a flask of coffee, breakfast and safety. As long as he stays away from the perpetrators for now, he will be OK. At some point however, we need to get his bike sorted as they also slashed his tyres.
It is so important to have first aid volunteers on site each week for situations like this. We now have three, so we try very hard to have at least one of them on each session. He was told to call an ambulance if his condition deteriorates and to go and see his GP. Unfortunately, we could not give him a replacement phone as his had been stolen. It is important to have volunteers who are professionally trained in mental health, medical and counselling to enrich our other volunteers who have amazing experience and know our clients well.
One of our regular drinkers who hears voices was much more settled today. A volunteer saw him drinking outside from a bottle. Meryl did speak to a few of them outside. We have to have eyes in the back of our heads. Meryl talked to him about his drinking. He said he can be an aggressive drunk but only to people who challenge him. He said that the volunteers would be OK, though as he knows he has to be respectful. Meryl asked him to be mindful of his drinking before he comes in. He said he understood his behaviour could affect him coming into the Soup Kitchen. It can be daunting when you have a group of people who have been drinking all day together in one small room hungry, tired with often serious mental health issues. Explaining to them when they are “less intoxicated” hopefully helps with this.
Another was seen pouring rum into cups. Sue our Community Police Officer intervened and took it away. Meryl wanted to give him an instant ban. He does support a very vulnerable person however, which makes a huge difference to their life. As a result, this time he was given a stern verbal but final warning. We at the Soup kitchen have to make many judgement calls throughout the session each week. These decisions are used in order to keep people safe and to protect the volunteers and clients whilst in the session. We try not to ban people who come in. For some, the Soup Kitchen is very very important to their support and the only place in a week they attend. However, we will not accept antisocial behaviour and flouting the rules.
Someone whom we have helped before with his beautiful white Staffie came in. He is no longer living in accommodation so now ‘No Fixed Abode’ (NFA). He is always very polite and gracious. His brother was also in. His brother is in a hostel so supporting him. The difficulty now is that there are quite a few dogs up at Two Saints and they do not really like to have too many at a time. Two Saints always try to be flexible and accommodate where possible, but the hostel always has to be mindful of the other residents and dogs. We will get the dog checked over by a local vet through the Dogs Trust charity to make sure it has had all its vaccines. The dog has been disabled from misuse. We gave out dog food for her too.
Such as a tent and shower tokens, twice this evening we had clients come in and ask for items for other people. We have to be strict with our donations. We do not give out to anyone unless they come in personally themselves. We keep a record of everything so we can monitor who has had what and liaise with Loose Ends so they know also. We try to do this to prevent people from taking advantage.
Suicide Prevention Training
Interestingly Monday and Tuesday this week Meryl, Lorna and Matilda attended a Suicide Prevention Training (ASIST). This was very a great opportunity. Interesting, however difficult and emotional at times. They were taught how to listen and talk to someone who is suicidal with the emphasis of keeping them “safe for now!” Their training taught them to be able to spot “invitations” to someone’s state of mind and to pick up on them.
To ask a person “Have you thought about suicide?” and “Do you have a plan?” is a difficult thing to do. Our volunteers were taught and advised how to do this. The training taught them also that if person is completely stressed, desperate and suicidal, to listen and to help them see and realise that they have a reason to live and to recognise that support is out there. To keep them “safe for now!” The training also taught us that they can only try to keep people “safe for now!” No-one can take responsibility for a person’s actions and not feel guilty if the outcome is unsuccessful. It was a difficult two days but very very rewarding, empowering and enlightening for all attendees. We hope to get more volunteers trained on this.
Two policemen visited this evening which was great. They were very accommodating and very keen to reiterate that we have their support. Interestingly none of the more challenging clients came in again this evening. Having the police pop in we think is a good thing. They did not stay, but it will show our clients that we have a zero tolerance for antisocial behaviour.
Living, working and volunteering in a close-knit town such as Newbury is not always easy. When a volunteer was out with family one evening recently, they were approached a few times by a client when walking through the town. Everyone is friendly, but volunteers are now recognised wherever they go. Whether it’s on the way to work, lunch hour or out late with family and friends, sometimes it can be unwanted or inappropriate. Our clients do not always see us as “off duty”, usually due to the amazing volunteers we have, they do not mind. We always have a duty of care to support and if necessary phone the CRISIS team, police, Safeguarding or other statutory organisations if deemed appropriate.
This flavour is the favourite. Now the weather is getting colder especially at night, Pot Noodles are a great easy hot snack for someone to make themselves. All they need to access is hot water. Hit food can help reduce the chance of hypothermia as well as hunger. They are easy to store and food does not get damp.
We use bowls every week in the Soup kitchen for chilli, jacket potatoes and desserts if we have it on the menu. Our wish list is always accessible. We appreciate all the support we get from the local community.
We felt sad this week. Working with many of the same clients week in week out you get very fond of them. To see them distressed, hurt or desperate is upsetting for us. All we can do is do our best. This we try to do this in a caring, non-judgemental and supportive way. We are family to some, the only place they go for comfort and reassurance. We will keep an eye this week on our injured chap and see he is supported.
A quote from one of our volunteers:
Every Thursday, I help provide simple support to my fellow humans. Tonight however, this beautiful girl also wanted a hug and of course, I obliged