The Local Rough Sleepers & The Coronavirus

A good night I think all in all. We didn’t think it was that busy as it was steady but apparently there were 51 people in total once we counted the sign in register. It was clear however that 28 people came in during the first 5 minutes. 


The main course of Sweet and Sour Chicken with rice was cooked by Henry and Joe’s restaurant this week. It is the first time we have tried this on the menu, and it went down very well. Jan was away but prepared the potato salad which many clients choose to have over everything else. Julie made a lovely sweet potato soup and Meryl made a mixed berry Crumble which was served with Custard. The Crumble has become a bit of a fixture within the Soup Kitchen. On the weeks we provide a different dessert there are always complaints that crumble is not on the menu. Sandra, Carrie and Julie volunteered in the kitchen this week providing meals for 51 people, one of which turned up as we had almost cleared up and shutting the doors. Nevertheless, they sorted something out for this person to take away. 

The donations of food have reduced dramatically over the last two weeks, we are assuming it is due to people over shopping and stock piling because of the Coronavirus as reported in the media.  We will work very hard to keep the meals and menu to the same standard as our clients are used to but may have to be a little more inventive should donations continue to drop. 


We had some good news at the beginning of the session. One of our regular clients came in beaming as he has found a job. After working in practical and physical jobs for many years this person cannot sustain the same level of physical employment due to chronic back issues. This new position will be a career path change but will fit around their physical limitations. Over the last few months we have had to support this person emotionally and encourage them not to give up and to keep looking for work. This person uses the Soup Kitchen for food, companionship and support. Over the last three years we have seen lots of mental health ups and downs with this client and at times we have played a part in keeping him uplifted when life has seemed against them. We have had to provide support with advocacy with rent, council tax and liaise with other organisations when necessary to help keep his time out of work as stress free as possible. He wanted to come in and share his wonderful news with us this week. We are so pleased for him and to see him so happy. 


Meryl went to Kennet school on Thursday to talk to the year 9 students about homelessness. Paul from the charity Loose Ends was also there to have a chat too. The students are doing a design project based on homelessness. Their goal is to design something to make a homeless person’s life better, something practical in the stressful everyday life of a rough sleeper. Meryl mentioned this project to one of our clients who is rough sleeping at present and they suggested a “umbrella that works properly and is strong enough to withstand wind and rain”  This simple idea struck us as something that of course would make such a difference to a person’s everyday life. 

Meryl is going back twice to the school to speak to Year 9 individual classes about the food aspect and problems around diet, nutrition and practicability of food when someone is sleeping rough. Other classes are looking into aspects around boredom and what ideas can be put together around that. Meryl and Paul from Loose ends have been invited back to help mark the finished pitches in six weeks.

The volunteers always sit before a session and have a briefing and general discussion about the session. 

This week we discussed our cleaning regime and now we can improve it with the pending risk of Coronavirus in this area. The cohort of people that we work with are extremely vulnerable for many reasons for example:


  • Lack of clean water
  • Poor hygiene due to living circumstances 
  • Mental health
  • Chaotic lifestyle
  • Acute and chronic illnesses such as COPD and diabetes


At the pre session talk it was decided that we need to be more thorough with our cleaning routine for example, all handles on all doors inside and out, taps, the tea urn, bannister, and all surfaces. We do this anyway, but it was important to make the decision as a team to take longer with our cleaning regime. The cleaning products for the tables, chairs, handles, bathrooms and floors etc is commercial hospital grade. 

Washing hands for 20 seconds (Happy Birthday twice sung in your head) with soap and hot water is the best but with so many people arriving at once potentially with different levels of capacity it can be difficult to do this. Therefore, we have started to ask everyone who comes into the Soup Kitchen to use medical sanitiser before they sign in. 

We are surprised that everyone has been very willing to do this, we did anticipate some people being offended by our requests, but this has not been the case. If the virus continues to spread, we will have to consider how we can continue to feed so many hungry people. Perhaps we will have to move the Soup Kitchen outside and feed people in a similar fashion that we do from the back of our van on a Saturday afternoon.  This will help avoid the issues with close proximity that the Soup Kitchen has at the moment. 

We are appealing for tinned food and Pot Noodles. Our Amazon Wish list have Pot Noodles and tinned produce can be donated into our Co-Op donations bins at the stores at Brummell road and Wash Common. If food donations decrease, we can still feed people with these goods. Pot Noodles are a practical way to give a quick hot meal or something that someone can be taken away with a flask of hot water for later.