Before Christmas, COO Mandy and other volunteers from Welsh ICE and Calon helped out at the Caerphilly Churches Night Shelter. Here, she shares her thoughts on the experience.
When Greg, the owner of our on site Café Calon, said he was going to set up a suspended coffee jar, I was intrigued for sure. I took a look and -yes- in many places, after buying a coffee people will pop money in a jar for someone homeless to come in and get a free hot drink. However, this is so much more than coffee, it is a real movement to just be kind to people in any way you can.
To our surprise, our fund after a year stood at over £250.00 and due to our location on a business park was not getting any use. We decided that the fund should be used for food and drink for the homeless rather than a donation to a charity. With some support of our members at Welsh ICE we were put in touch with the local Methodist Church who provide winter night shelters in the Borough and hatched a scheme.
Over the last three weeks Greg has turned the money into freshly prepared roast beef dinners with cake and custard, which we then delivered, warmed and served to the guests in the shelter. The guests and shelter volunteers were so pleased and thankful and the evening became a positive but moving experience for each of us that got involved.
I am one of those people who will pop into a coffee shop and buy a coffee (well usually hot chocolate and a cake ) and give to someone I have spotted in a shop door way, usually in Cardiff. This experience in Caerphilly just reminded me that homelessness can happen anywhere, not just in city centres.
One of the young ladies I spoke to, admitted to being a newly recovering addict and explained that the shelters not only provide food, but company, TV and a warm bed which allowed her to focus on getting well as she did not need to worry about where to sleep or what to eat.
These centres are not drop in and guests need to be referred and assessed to ensure the safety of the other vulnerable guests and volunteers who not only share the evening with these guests but stay overnight for continued support.
Most of the guests that attend are either known rough sleepers or currently sofa surfing while registered with the council to get into more permanent accommodation. Supporting this project is critical to us making sure that no one is out alone on these winter nights in our community.
A massive thank you to Greg from Calon, the volunteers from the Welsh ICE community and for anyone who contributed to our suspended coffee jar. May it continue so we can stay involved.
You can find out more about the Caerphilly Churches Night Shelter on their Facebook page.