At 9.52 on a Monday morning inside 62 Summer Street, our home, staff and volunteers prepare for the day’s Drop-In service.
The smell of a flask of hot coffee lingers throughout, pairs of boxers are being counted, and it is noted, that again they are still low on stock; someone carries a pile of paperwork and, on top, balances five bottles of shampoo.
Outside, a queue will have already formed.
Some in the queue will have alcohol and substance misuse issues, or be experiencing long term financial hardship, and will have been coming to this Drop-In for weeks, a month or maybe longer.
For others, it will be their first time. They may have spent the weekend sleeping rough or be leaving an abuser behind.
Anyone, experiencing any form of crisis, can come to our daily Drop-In service.
Everyone who attends will talk with one of our resettlement workers. They can access our small supply of clothing and toiletries, and, if needed, take away a three day food parcel.
But, we are currently experiencing a crisis of our own. Stocks of food are extremely low, and this is having a knock-on impact on the services we can provide to our users.
Chloe our Volunteer Coordinator manages our food parcel volunteers, who come in four times a week to put the parcels together
Chloe said: ‘We are completely reliant on people’s donations to offer the food parcels that we do. We only have a small supply of dried pasta and cereal left on our shelves. We urgently need more food’.
With dwindling food stocks and a range of service users’ needs to consider, it is not an easy task.
Chloe explained: ‘Making up a food parcel to suit the needs of our service users is actually quite difficult. A lot are in temporary accommodation or have recently moved into a new home, and maybe don’t have a cooker or a microwave’.
‘If they only have a kettle, then we need to tailor their food parcel to suit them, giving them plenty of instant meals. It’s a lot more complicated than it seems, and, because of this, our stocks tend to run low on things like instant noodles, and cup soups regularly’.
‘Food and nourishment is an essential human need, and just because someone is experiencing homelessness and hardship, doesn’t mean they should have this right taken away from them. It’s difficult seeing people struggle and knowing you can’t help as much as you’d like to’.
Food poverty is a significant issue in the city. Throughout last year, we had over 1,200 people come to our Drop-In, and gave out 2,855 food parcels.
But the service provides much more than the parcels.
Steve Hughes, Service Manager, explained:
‘For most people experiencing food poverty, this is not their only need. It’s rarely isolated. Many require extra support, and our team help them out with things like income support, employment skills and benefits claims as and when needed at Drop-In’.
‘Our team also work directly with street beggars to help assist people out of this and offer practical tenancy support, providing support with setting up utilities and securing furniture. Food parcels help alleviate someone’s short term need, but once they have presented themselves to us, we are able to help them in many more ways’.
‘This is why we desperately need more food donations. When someone comes to us needing help, and we are able to give them food for three days, we do more than ease their hunger. We assess their needs, and form a relationship with them, which can, over time, lead to long-term improvement’.
The Drop-In service runs each week day from 10.00am, is free and works on a first-come-first served basis. A food parcel received there can be a first step towards long term security and health for many of our users.
It’s not simply tinned tomatoes and dried noodles. It is advice, advocacy and support, a listening ear and a helpful hand. It is short term help and long term gain.
It is much more than simply food.
We urgently need the following food items:
- Tinned fruit and veg
- Tinned meat
- Tinned fish
- Instant meals (for example pot noodles that just require hot water)
- Pasta sauces
- Baked beans
- Tinned tomatoes
- Cup soups
- Tinned soup
- Tinned pasta (macaroni, ravioli, etc)
Donations of the following toiletries and clothing are also much appreciated:
- Shaving gel/foam
- Shower gel
- Gents underwear (new only)
- Ladies underwear (new only)
- Men’s jeans/joggers (in particular small sizes)
- T-shirts and sweatshirts
Donations can be made to our office at 62 Summer Street, 9.00am-5.00pm Monday –Thursday, 9.00am-4.00pm Friday.