We Find That Support For Newbury Homeless Clients Is A Complex Issue

When we opened the door for this week’s session, Cath who was at the door was amazed to see 23 people sign in during the first 3 minutes! We were actually very busy this evening 46 people in total. Jan still away so we decided to go out on a limb and do something completely different. We needed to make room in the freezers for apples and onions as we have had quite a lot donated recently.

This Week’s Menu

The menu this week was BBQ chicken wings, Chinese chicken thighs, Cajun potato wedges, Boston beans and due to many residual apples, apple crumble. Victoria and Cath came over today and chopped another 18kg box of apples which was amazing and Carrie has been incredible to take four 18kg boxes home to do for us too. Then somehow we have to find freezer space!

All the food went. We were a bit nervous as it all had a bit of a kick to it and also not sure about the mess with the bones. Another difficulty is that many of our clients do not have teeth, but it was all a huge success. Carrie and Sandra worked so hard in the kitchen. It was not easy for them this evening as there were many trays of food to cook, but with their Food Hygiene training and experience they made it look easy.

Missing Medical Support

As sessions go it was quite a demanding evening. We missed not having Emma there. It is important to have the extra support for the medical side. We always have someone on site with medical experience to provide first aid if necessary.

One of our regular chaps came in. He was not himself this week. He told Mai-Britt he had had a stroke and told Meryl he had had a seizure earlier on in the week and had been taken to hospital. Apparently he said he picked up a cigarette end from the floor in the town and smoked it. Unbeknown to him, he said he was told it was “Spice”. He then had a terrible reaction and fell, banged his head and was taken to hospital by ambulance. It scared him. Spice is a drug that gives a reaction that has terrified people who have been around drugs and used for years. He talked about the worry he has put his family through over the years and how bad he feels. He is very forgetful all the time with what he has asked for or where his stuff was. Mai-Britt reminded him all evening to go and see his doctor tomorrow as he has numbness in his left arm. Hopefully she has drummed it into him. We have asked him to bring his doctor’s letter in next week and we can talk it through with him. He is suffering from memory loss, maybe alcohol induced.

Wernickes Encephalopathy causes the brain to bleed, affecting vision, coordination and balance. Left untreated, Korsakoff Syndrome sets in. Then the brain develops chronic pain and memory is negatively and permanently affected.

Alcohol Abuse

Long term abuse of alcohol can cause Korsakoff Syndrome. Alcoholic Korsakoff syndrome (AKS), is an amnesia disorder caused by thiamine deficiency associated with prolonged ingestion of alcohol. This neurological disorder is caused by a lack of thiamine (vitamin B1) in the brain and is also exacerbated by the neurotoxic effects of alcohol. We feel so frustrated because people who have these terrible symptoms struggle on a day to day basis. We think he loses his tent regularly as he forgets where he puts it. We always give him a pop up tent as he finds it difficult to put a traditional type tent up. We do not get donations of pop up tents very often so we try to keep them by for him. What is the long term outlook for someone like him? A charity in Southampton called The Society of St James have an old people’s home especially for long term drinkers, some of which suffer from Korsakoff syndrome. They get lots of support and are in a safe environment.

Another man came in very, very drunk and hearing voices, but in a better state of mind than he has been recently. When Meryl asked him to sit down and drink his coffee outside, he did listen. He was talking to his voices and getting confused. At times he didn’t not know if he was talking to Meryl or his voices. He was very apologetic about his behaviour. Our clients do show an amount of respect and the ones that arrive drunk do know there are rules that they must abide. If they are too drunk, we settle them down outside around the corner to have a coffee and eat something.

Zero Tolerance On Drugs

People rarely turn up under the influence of a class A drugs. Again, we have rules. Two people were sitting by the bin outside for ages. It took Meryl a while to realise that they were completely ‘out of it’. One of them was lucky. If he had waited a few more minutes to wake up, we would have administered a Naloxone syringe or/and call 999. Anyway Meryl went and spoke to them both and managed to wake them up. They actually did as Meryl asked and left. They were very polite and went away apologetic. The Soup Kitchen will not tolerate any illicit behaviour in the vicinity of the Soup Kitchen and the clients know we have a zero tolerance.

PCSO Support

Sue our Community Police Officer was with us this week in uniform, she always comes in when she is on duty and volunteers when she is not. Sue and her colleague Phil support us so much. It is wonderful to know we have the support of the police, but at the same time they keep a healthy distance, of course unless they are needed. We have had to call them twice in 20 months or so and we are very proud of that.

New Rough Sleepers

We had at least three new rough sleepers in this week. New people going into the camp can change the dynamics and community, but it seems two of them have settled in well. One of our older chaps does look after new campers and helps keep people safe. One new lady cried when Mai-Britt gave her a tent. The third was an older man who is passing through. A charming old man who was an original Newbury bypass protester. He looked like he has been travelling for years. He was wet and hungry. We sorted him out with a sleeping bag, dry clothes and some food. He was telling me he makes his money by playing spoons all over the country. Sue our Community officer knew him. Sue, Meryl and he sat and had a nice chat.

A cup of coffee and a sandwich, especially on a Saturday as there is no food or charity providing food that day.

Support Of Our Clients Is Complex

There seem to be many more people who are drinking and coming to the Soup kitchen recently. Rough sleeper numbers are now in the mid thirties in Newbury itself. We have new people coming in each week. Behind the scenes work is going on to try to reduce the numbers. Reducing homelessness is not however just about putting a roof over someone’s head. People need support for the reason why they have become homeless. Often, dual diagnosis clients mean support for addictions and mental health. You cannot heal and help with one issue without healing and helping with the other. Mental health and additions need to be addressed in parallel. It has often taken a lifetime for a person to get the emotional and physical state that they are in. As a result, it can take a very long time to support someone. Otherwise a person can have yo-yo effect, going from being a rough sleeper into accommodation and back to rough sleeping. Our job is getting harder each week, we are getting busier each week. The needs and support of our clients is complex.

Food For Thought

Our team is dedicated and strong, we do our best. That is all we can do. The local community can always help with support through our Amazon Wish List and be aware of the rough sleepers you see. A cup of coffee and a sandwich, especially on a Saturday as there is no food or charity providing food that day. We can ALL make a difference.