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Soup kitchen serves Llanelli’s homeless

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Soup kitchen serves Llanelli’s homelessHAVING lived in London for many years and worked with the homeless in other cities in the UK, the sight of a soup kitchen on the streets is not unusual. In Llanelli on a blustery June day, it was a little incongruous.

Organisations including the Salvation Army have historically provided a hot meal for the homeless. The traditional soup kitchen has merged into the ‘food bank’, as increased demand from hungry people on low income has to be met. In America,

they have become known as ‘food pantries’. Instead of providing hot meals, frontline food banks and pantries hand out packages of groceries, enabling recipients to cook themselves several meals at home. Food bank users can receive food for up to a dozen or so meals at once, whereas with a soup kitchen, they typically only receive a single meal with each visit.

Traditionally the ‘soup kitchen’ model offers a meal to whoever turns up, with no questions asked. The soup kitchen’s greater accessibility can make it more suitable for assisting people with long-term dependence on food aid. Soup kitchens can also provide warmth, companionship, and the shared communal experience of dining with others, which can be especially valued by people such as widowers or the homeless.

In some countries such as Greece, soup kitchens have become the most widely used form of food aid, with The Guardian reporting in 2012 that an estimated 400,000 Greeks visit a soup kitchen each day.

The Herald visited the soup kitchen at the Town Hall Square in Llanelli on Sunday (Jun 12).

A small group of volunteers had arrived and set up a large white gazebo. Cars packed with bread rolls were unloaded and The Herald was told these had been donated by one of the town’s largest bakeries.

Tins of soup, tables, benches, bowls, spoons, cookers, a kettle, cups and cookers were swiftly set up ready for those who,

we were told, would come.

Gary Glenister works for Carmarthenshire County Council in their planning department. He also runs a community church at Trallwm Hall.

The Herald asked Gary why, in 2016, there was a need for a soup kitchen in Llanelli.

He said:

“It is simple. There are a lot of homeless people in Llanelli and there are a lot of people on very low incomes suffering from benefit sanctions. There is nothing here for people that are out and out homeless. There are organisations that work with drug addicts and people with alcohol issues, but there is no hostel for homeless people.

“There are lots of vulnerable people around who need help. I don’t agree with numbers of homeless people quoted – i

t is an invisible problem. These people are human beings and we don’t judge them. We provide them with God’s love on the street. Anyone can fall down, we have been lucky in that we have a career. If we can give back to the community , we are happy to do that.

“It is not just homeless people. Some people have no money and they can’t get to the food bank until midweek. We would like to provide an emergency package for people like clothing, toiletries and sleeping bags. We are testing the water. If the need is there, we will continue. If there is not, then that would be even better.”

We spoke to a young man at the soup kitchen, (we will call him Jimmy).

Jimmy , using the soup kitchen, told us: “I am here by chance. I am from Ireland originally. I am a recovering alcoholic. I heard about this place where they were giving out tea and coffee. I am sofa surfing at the mo ment , having just got out of rehab. It is great to have somewhere like this. I recently lost my job.

“I have been in care since the age of two. I have spent the last six years trying to come of f drink and drugs. I have been in and out of prison. I have family back in Ireland. Circumstances brought me here, I have lost everything – m y house, my job, the people I love. I thought I had a handle on my life but I didn’t. I can come here and meet people like myself, share stories and point each other in the right direction.”

Another young man (we will call him Tim) spoke to us about his experiences of being homeless in Llanelli.

Tim told us that he was an ex -soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He said: “I have been homeless for quite some time. I have been living on the streets. I have temporary accommodation now, but I struggle to live on my own. Coming here has really helped me. It is the highlight of my week. I found out about it on Facebook. It is somewhere I can come to chat to people. I can go all week sometimes without speaking to anyone.”

Gwynne Jones helps to run the soup kitchen. He explained how homelessness was visible in Swansea and other cities but that it was an invisible problem in Llanelli.

“We have seen people in the parks for a number of years. There are people with all sorts of problems and we are seeing an increase in numbers. Three weeks ago we had one person come along. We now go around the town and we find people and let them know. This is self-funded by Gary and myself.

“We have had permission to be here and we have gone into the nitty-gritty of environmental health ,

etc. We have hand washing facilities and we want to make sure that what we are doing her complies to all regulations. The human contact here is just as important as the food and hot drinks. They have some amazing stories to tell. The lives they have had it is a wonder they have survived. We provide a listening ear and a bit of human warmth.”

As we stood and listened to the conversations taking place between at least 5 people who had turned up to use the service ,

it struck us that this was more than a soup kitchen under a gazebo almost blown away by the wind. This was a place of human kindness, where as they shared some hot drinks and food and were allowed to tell their stories or simply chat about life – people who would otherwise be judged and abandoned could be treated as equals.

Even if only one person turns up, there is a need.

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Cllr Kevin Madge elected as new county council Chairman

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THE new chair of Carmarthenshire County Council said he will work tirelessly during his term of office.

Cllr Kevin Madge, member for Garnant, takes the chain of office whilst celebrating 40 years as a councillor.

Taking the chair, Cllr Madge paid tribute to outgoing chairman Cllr Mansel Charles, member for Llanegwad, saying he had fulfilled his duties with passion.

Cllr Madge will chair the council for the next 12 months, with Cllr Ieuan Davies, member for Llanybydder, as his vice chair, and his wife Catrin as his consort.

“I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead, I will do my best for everyone. I will work tirelessly,” he said.

Cllr Madge has chosen the Trussell Trust, which supports a nationwide network of food banks and emergency food provision for people in crisis, as his Chairman’s Charity of the Year.

The Chair is the first citizen of Carmarthenshire County Council, and is elected at the Annual General Meeting.

Duties include chairing full meetings of the council, representing the council at formal and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visitors to the county, and attending and supporting events organised by local people and organisations.

Cllr Madge has been a county councillor since 1996, and a member of Cwmaman Town Council since 1979.

He also serves as chairman of the Royal British Legion Garnant branch, Garnant Family Centre and Cwmaman Meals on Wheels, and is a member of Amman Valley League of Friends.

He represents the county council on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, and the Mynydd y Betws Wind Farm Community Fund, and is on the governing body of Ysgol Y Bedol.

A former pupil of Amman Valley School, Cllr Madge has worked in the Amman Valley throughout his life, most recently as agent and researcher to Dr Alan Williams MP until 2001.

A keen football supporter, he has served as chair and president of Cwmaman Football Club and spent 25 years as a Welsh League and Neath and District football referee.

He is married with two children and three grandchildren.

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‘UK Government should work with the Welsh Labour Government on Tata’

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LOCAL Assembly Member Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said ““This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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MP and AM call for Trostre certainty after merger fails

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LOCAL ASSEMBLY MEMBER Lee Waters and Nia Griffith MP have called on the UK Government to work with the Welsh Labour Government to come up with a deal to protect steel making at Trostre, and across Wales and the UK.

Lee Waters AM met with representatives from Tata Steel on Wednesday to discuss the future for steel making at the plant following the reported collapse of the proposed joint venture with Thyssenkrupp.

During the meeting he stressed the need to protect the entire steel supply chain in Wales, including the high quality jobs at Trostre, and those that depend on its presence in Llanelli.

Lee Waters AM said “It’s clear that the support Welsh Government provided during the crisis of 2016 has been critical in getting extra investment into Port Talbot which will secure the works for years to come. However, Tata is a company run from India, and we simply don’t know what the board will decide about its future strategy. They may well be looking for a new joint venture partner, so we’ll have to vigilant about the implications for our local plants.”

“Tata has said it intends to continue with its existing business plan, and honor commitments made to the Trade Unions, so Nia and I will be keeping a close eye to make sure that happens.”

Welsh Government has been in active discussions with Tata steel following the collapse of the merger with Thyssenkrupp. In a written statement and during questions on Wednesday, the Welsh Government committed to invest in Welsh steel to protect its future and is looking at a range of measures to assist on energy costs, business rates and procurement of steel for public sector contracts.

Lee Waters AM said “The Welsh Government have given significant support to the steel industry here but it can’t do everything, and we now need the UK Government to work with them to ensure a future for skilled work in the steel industry in Llanelli and elsewhere in Wales.”

Nia Griffith AM said “This latest news from Tata means yet more uncertainty for steelworkers. Their announcement about keeping Port Talbot is a start, but now we need real commitment from Tata on Trostre.

“We also need close cooperation from the company with the Trade Unions. Lee Waters AM and I will be urging the UK Government to follow Welsh Government in doing everything possible to secure the future of our steel industry.”

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