The Blue Light Initiative And County Lines Drug Dealing

It was busy but a happy evening this week. No real issues and everyone in a buoyant mood. We welcomed 50 people through the door, not including quite a few visitors wanting to come in with items from our Christmas wish list to donate.

Bridge Youth Club

The Bridge Youth Club came in to see us. Mai-Britt talked to them about homelessness and what that means and what we do. They seemed very interested.

Youngsters from the Bridge Youth Club popped into see us before opening.

On The Menu This Evening

Jan made cottage pie, carrots cooked in orange juice which were really good and potato salad. Meryl made apple cake and custard with the abundance of apples that were donated in August. We are still trying to get through them all. We had a comment from a client that they enjoyed the variety of food that we provide very much.

Lisa from Tesco Metro came in with boxes of pastries and pasties etc as their freezers had packed up again.


The motorway was shut tonight and apparently there was an 11 mile tailback sadly due to an accident. The whole town was gridlocked. Poor Carol took 1one hour and twenty minutes from the B&Q area of town. Many of the volunteers were very late, they were phoning in very worried. We are aware that everyone is a volunteer, these things happen. We always manage and try to deal with every situation that arises.

It's Not Just Thursday Evenings

This week we have been rushed off our feet. Monday night Lorna and Meryl went to Harwell to meet some ladies from a Livery called Grove Farm Equestrian who are going to raise money for the Soup Kitchen. On Wednesday, seven of us went to Upper Basildon to the local Bridge Club. Jan and Sandra cooked a meal and Mark, Courtney, Mai-Britt and Elizabeth were waiters for two hours whilst Meryl stood up and provided a talk about the Soup Kitchen and our plans to expand the services we hope to provide for the future to the 40 people who were there. It was great fun. Apparently, they raised more money then they have done previously and enjoyed Jan’s cooking very much.

Prison Re-Offending And The Blue Light Initiative

This evening one of our clients came in who has just come out of prison. He was away for six weeks. Meryl asked some questions about what it is like and he was very keen to talk when asked. Unfortunately for him it has been a common event. He talked about needing to “hold your own” but for him, it really is not that bad as it is so familiar. He said he has put on weight and had been detoxed. He only had the clothes he was standing up in and is Wayfaring.

A member of the public turned up with a coat which we gave straight to him, Mai-Britt kitted him out in clothes. Some people like him are Blue Light users, people who live in a circle of police, doctors, ambulance and prison. Costing society money as they are unable to quit their drinking. Known as “long term resistant drinkers”. The Blue Light Initiative is now in West Berkshire and they have recruited an outreach worker two days a week to work with people with alcohol addiction who are resistant to change. This new worker is attached to Swanswell so we are looking forward to working with them very much. We are hopeful that this initiative will help some of our desperate, sad people who are stuck in a cycle.


It can be upsetting for all the volunteers when we see the deterioration of a client in way of their health. At the Soup Kitchen, we work very hard with the Statutory organisations to hopefully support people who come into us each week. One of our regular clients was agitated this week. His memory is not good and he was filthy. We are encouraging him to go to Two Saints for the SWEP facility each night as we are very concerned about his health. Unfortunately, he often drinks too much and forgets due symptoms of impaired memory.

Working with people who again are non-engaging due to alcohol use and mental health can be very difficult. It is hard to engage effectively with people with these symptoms.

We wash his hands when he comes in and give him food and if necessary clean clothes. He enjoys coming to see us each week. He remembers times that we are open so can function with some regular structure. The statutory organisations and charities are helping him as much as possible.

Unfortunately, we learned tonight after the Soup Kitchen that he was found unconscious in the street. An ambulance was called and he agreed to be triaged by the ambulance crew. He is potentially a Blue Light candidate.

Support And Assistance Is Key

We have been helping a lovely young man since the beginning of the year, assisting him to work through what he wants and needs to do. He has a profession which he has dipped in and out of, but at the moment he feels unable to cope with the responsibility of that work. For him finding the right place which will compliment his recovery in order to support him rather than cause him anxiety is important. For him, working out which direction to go that will give him the peace of mind he needs is the first objective. Anxiety and stress make his symptoms of anxiety and paranoia worse. If this happens he will not stay in his job. He now has somewhere to live so wants to pay his rent and improve his mental health and tackle his addictions. He is scared to run before he can walk. He does not want to let a future employer down. Meryl is working with him to support him through his thought processes and concerns. We are confident he will find the right position for him and start to move on with his life.

County Lines Drug Dealing

Awareness is starting to grow about county lines drug dealing and cuckooing, which is having an impact in West Berkshire and other areas across the country. Often from major cities such as London, drug dealers will move into new sales areas like West Berkshire and the Home Counties to sell their products. The link from London to their new bases has become known as the “County Drug Line“.

It is becoming more common that these dealers will take advantage of and exploit vulnerable people who are housing tenants, taking over their home and using it as a base for their criminal operation. This is known as “Cuckooing”.

These gangs are often extremely intimidating and violent. Not only do they exploit vulnerable people for their accommodation, but they also target children and recruit them into their criminal network, these children can be very young.

These organised crime groups can often have links to other forms of exploitation such as modern slavery, human trafficking and child sexual exploitation. Meryl has had some training in this and is organising training for all the Soup Kitchen volunteers in the New Year. Awareness is key and we try to keep up with new advice and training as it comes through. This is a subject that needs more attention and awareness.

Media Coverage

Ali Monjack from That’s TV – Thames Valley came in this evening. Ali has interviewed us before. She talked to a couple of our clients who were interested to tell their story and experiences of homelessness. The coverage will be released next week after Armistice Day on Freeview Channel 7 and YouTube.

A Lovely Scene This Evening

We love it when we spot precious moments between two people. Even better when it is the police and a client. You don’t get much better than this do you? This is why we love what we do.

Our regular PCSO plays games with one of our clients.