Tag Archives: Soup kitchen

Wee things….

I started teaching in a school in Glasgow in 2001 and started volunteering with staff and senior pupils on the soup kitchen. Every Wednesday we would make the soup, 300 rolls and take out fruit. We would meet up with a charity who ran the service and would be in George Square from 10-11pm. It was great for staff and learners to work together and to be doing a wee bit to help. During the school holidays I would rope in my dad and friends to help.

It wasn’t a big deal. It was just what we did. I ended up training with the charity to be senior volunteer and run the shift. We did moving and handling, first aid, child protection and suicide awareness. I’ve used every bit of that training.

Fast forward to now, we’re still outside but at 9pm in a different location.

During my time as a volunteer I’ve had a knife pulled on me, worked with suicidal people of all ages, visited service users in their accommodation, arranged for furniture for people in new accommodation, been called all sorts of colourful things, worked with emergency services and so much more. I’ve seen people at their best and at their very worst. I’ve cried with them and I’ve laughed with them. We’ve celebrated small victories and been heartbroken when we’ve lost friends.

I’ve had the odd rant about it but like so many other people, we are just trying our best to help.

We have a great team of volunteers who have been quietly rocking up for over 10 years now on a Sunday night . We rely on each other giving time. Our volunteers range from university professors, students, parents, people from faith groups, grandparents, and people who just want to help-each bringing their time and talent to listen. We have a mental health first aider with us too.

We have an amazing community of family and friends who donate toiletries, clothes and dried goods.

Last night was indeed a first. A couple with a young baby who had been all over the city (and I mean all over) trying to get powdered baby milk.

It was very cold and they were at their wits end. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t decide to walk all over the city looking for baby milk and rock up at the last food provision in the city if you were not desperate! They told me the fresh air helped their wee one sleep. Indeed but at 920pm at night, he should be sleeping at home.

A few phone calls later and out of hours social work helped us. They arranged for a taxi to pick them up, get them milk and get them home.

The family were on Universal Credit and from what I understand, had not had a payment.

To be the 5th stop on their day and being able to help them was a tiny victory.

It’s hard because the easiest thing would have been to get the milk( and believe me if we had not got the result with social work that is what we would have done) but then that doesn’t help in the grand scheme as it just gets “coped with” and everyone thinks it’s fine. It’s not fine. It’s horrific and if it wasn’t for the generosity of time and resources from people, instances of this couple would be MUCH higher.

Note to self: get a tin of aptamil in the bag along with the durex, toothpaste, shower gel and socks.

Help the homeless?

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A rant is long overdue. As I have written about before, I volunteer on the soup kitchen in the city centre. I have been doing it for the best part of 14 years and have seen it go through many changes, different systems and lots of volunteers.
Some people are curious and come and do a shift then don’t come back, some people come at Christmas as it makes them feel better and some stay. Motivations vary…curiosity, loneliness, kindness, empathy or just a want to do their bit.
We used to be centrally coordinated and provided with training in health and safety, suicide awareness, mental health issues and addiction recognition. When funding was pulled for this position, it looked like the collapse of this vital service. However,each and every shift decided that they still wanted to volunteer, provide, and be there for some of the most vulnerable members of society.
So we are still doing it. The food providers turn up every week for their shift with me with sandwiches, hot meals and soup. A rolling rota of tea and coffee providers turn up with the drinks, biscuits and fruit. We have food bags that are made up from donations and given out every week and most weeks we take out clothes, toiletries and anything else we can get our hands on.
Every single thing we give out is donated. We have get together since my house and in exchange for our patter, singing and “coffee” our friends bring clothes, toiletries, books, bedding, towels etc. When people are clearing out their cupboards I get first call on the goodies – it’s a way of people giving something back. Like a teacher I used to work with who would give me money every so often and tell me not to tell a soul,or when we stand in with the food- the pals that offer to pay for it,or the pals who have moved away but every time they are home they always come down and do a shift.

Last year there were attempts to get the soup kitchen out of the city centre and city wide exclusion orders were given to service users. We were being pushed further away from the people who needed us. We came together and we are still on our pitch.
We now comply with health and safety regulations of pinning up posters about ingredients and allergy information, (despite the fact many of our service users don’t have English as their mother tongue or have poor levels of literacy we are told we need to do it) We calm service users down who get agitated when this police do the slow drive by and we continue to engage with the late night services to provide some kind of safety and security for people who need it
helping the homeless is not a spectator sport. Ever.
People may suggest that sometimes it is better to stay quiet as the more attention you draw to something, the more hoops you would be forced to jump through.
Right then.
So isn’t it just wonderful that we are able to provide for between 60-80 service users every Sunday night out of the goodness of our heart and that of our friends? I am glad that we are, because that is just exactly what all the unsung volunteers are doing every night, rain, hail or shine, 365 nights a year.
I’m drawn to people who are genuine about positive change, who inspire me to do more and who want to make a difference. Even a wee tiny one.
Surely given this current state of society we should be making a noise where we can?

Imagine if I stayed quiet about concerns I had about the children I teach. Imagine if I relied on goodwill to educate my daughter. Imagine if I didn’t give a rats.

I make a noise about my weans.I make a noise about teaching. People may roll their eyes and smile as I start on my Dorothy-esque enthusiasm for supporting teachers to make a difference. I don’t consider myself as a spectator and I would be selling the vocation of teaching short if I sat back and refused to question, wonder and aspire to be better.
Looking after the most vulnerable in society is not a spectator sport and deserves more than a cursory box tick.

Oh aye, if anyone has toiletries, sleeping bags etc, ……….

Blethers

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I love a wee blether. You may have guessed.
On Sunday night at soup kitchen we were really busy with lots of people chatting and catching up. The weather was mild and that meant people were not in rush to get away. One of the best things we can do at soup kitchen is to talk to people who are there and very often you might be the only person they have spoken to all day.
There was an older gentleman standing back from where everyone was and I didn’t recognise him at all.
I went over to say hiya and check he was ok. Straight away he told me that he didn’t need anything, he wasn’t homeless and just came down to remind himself that there were good people.
He told me all about his life and how at 75 he still missed his mum. He spoke of his different jobs and what a good life he had enjoyed.
He was in no rush to leave and didn’t really engage with anyone else but was happy just to be there.
I had to see to a couple of things and he waited to chat as we left.
I’m not convinced of his story but then the important thing was that he had a blether and was listened to.
So of course it made me think about teaching ( what else) and about the wee quiet ones that when they have the chance for a blether, really do engage.
How the power of hello and a smile really does make the world of difference. I’m really hoping he comes back next week. Selfishly, I loved listening to him!

You could make a difference……

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0b-OHZI1Q5w

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Sunday night so you know it is going to be a rant. I’ve been turning this one over for a few hours……
One of my service users on the soup kitchen was pretty worse for wear on the bevvy. He struggles with it a lot and we often can go for weeks without seeing him as he is on a bender.
He turned up tonight and was pretty well gone,and it was really hard to try to talk sensibly with him.
I discovered a few years ago that I had taught his wee niece. Last year she was going in for a fairly serious operation so I made a wee gift bag and sent it along with him for her. I hadn’t seen her in year but I had a real soft spot for her.
When she got home from a fairly lengthy stay on hospital, my man from the soup kitchen asked me of I would phone his mums house one Monday night as his wee niece would be there.
I promised to try my best to phone at 7. My own wee lady was late I settling but I phoned at 7.30
By the time I and got off the phone my mobile was full of abusive text messages about shattering a dream and one I hadn’t phoned etc.
He’d gone out at 7.05 as I hadn’t phoned and went straight to the off licence.
The tiny wee thing of phoning and getting it on I time was not only a big thing for the wee lady in question but for this man too.
We cleared the air and all was fine.a bit awkward for a few months then he disappeared for a few months.
Tonight he got stuck into me for not phoning or visiting over Christmas.
I tried to explain that it wasn’t really appropriate to visit or phone etc, and I had done it was a once off when she had been in hospital.
What I took from him after that would make a sailor blush.
“You think you can make a difference you cannae” when what I was dying to say ” will I tell you how hard it is for me? Shall we talk about how hard it is to get through a day sometimes?shall we talk about the appropriateness of me phoning etc.
Grrrrr
I eventually asked him to leave the soup kitchen as he was really getting more upset with himself but swinging from aggressive to sad. It’s hard to manage that and make sure he still had his dignity to leave. Argh!
However,some fights you can’t win, but I do have a battle plan.