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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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Health board provides assurance to local residents following Llanelli lockdown restrictions

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Following the introduction of temporary lockdown measures in the Llanelli area the health board is moving to reassure local communities that they can still access hospital and community healthcare services, including urgent care.

The health board is continuing to focus on providing these essential services and patients should access Prince Philip Hospital if they have an urgent care need or a scheduled clinic appointment.

Planned operations continue to be prioritised based on clinical urgency (including patients with cancer and other urgent care needs) and people should attend these if they have a confirmed admission date.

These measures apply to people with appointments at Prince Philip Hospital (regardless of where you live), and for people living in the Llanelli restricted zone. Arrangements are also continuing with access to primary care services – please phone your doctor’s surgery, dentist or optometrist to find out more and follow instructions at your community pharmacist.

All GP practices and a number of community pharmacies are continuing to offer the flu jab by appointment – again please check arrangements with these providers locally and make sure you keep your appointment if you’ve been offered one.  If you do not have an appointment arranged and you are in one of the “at risk” categories, please contact your GP Practice to check on the arrangements for this year.

Visiting continues to be restricted at all Hywel Dda University Health Board hospitals and these must be pre-planned and agreed with the sister/charge nurse. 

The exceptions to this arrangement are:
One parent/guardian at a time to visit their child
For birthing mothers – only one birthing partner
Patients considered to be at the end of life or receiving palliative care. 

We have also introduced local exemptions to this where you can visit if you are supporting someone with a mental health issue such as dementia, a learning disability or autism, where not being present would cause the patient to become distressed. 

In all cases we are urging patients to continue to follow infection prevention and control guidance, as well as use of face coverings and maintaining social distance.  Further information and updates about local lockdowns can be found on the Welsh Government’s website here.

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience at Hywel Dda, said: “It’s really important that people living in areas affected by the new lockdowns know that they can still access services in the same way as they have been able to for the last few months.

“At the same time, it’s also important that people choose the right healthcare service for their need so that our hospitals can manage the extra demand that we always face at this time of the year.

“We will continue to prioritise urgent and emergency care, including planned operations based on clinical urgency, and I’d also like to remind people that arrangements are in place at a local level for community services such as GPs, pharmacies, optometrists and dentists.

“If you do need to attend a healthcare setting please remember to follow guidance on hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing and please contact the senior sister or charge nurse if you want to find out about visiting relatives in hospital.

“Remember, COVID-19 is a serious disease which is sadly having real and tragic consequences for many people and families. We will endeavour to do all that we can to keep our communities safe and we’d like to thank the public for their patience and understanding as we continue to work through these new arrangements.”

Remember – if you or any member of your household develop symptoms of COVID-19 it is important that you self-isolate and do NOT attend any appointments or visit our sites.

If you have symptoms (raised temperature, new persistent cough OR loss or change of smell or taste) please book a test as soon as possible. You can do this via the UK Portal here

Any Llanelli residents having problems booking a test can contact us on 0300 333 2222 or via covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk
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Police appeal for witnesses after 20-year-old pedestrian tragically killed on A40

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses to a fatal road traffic collision on the A40 west of Carmarthen on Saturday (Sept 26) in which a 20-year-old man, a pedestrian, lost his life.

The police have asked The Pembrokeshire Herald to publicise this appeal.

A spokesman for the police told this newspaper: “At around 9.40pm, a white VW Transporter was in collision with a pedestrian on the A40 westbound, near the junction of Llangynog, Carmarthen.

“The pedestrian, a 20-year-old male, died as a result of his injuries.

“It appears the pedestrian had left his vehicle, a black Seat, following a single-vehicle collision further along the westbound carriageway shortly before.

The police have asked that if anyone has any information on either or both collisions, or may have been travelling along the A40 at the relevant time, please contact the serious collision investigation unit, quoting reference DPP-20200926-339.

This can be done by email: contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, by phone on 101 or by text: If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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Llanelli becomes a Covid-19 ‘health protection zone’

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RESIDENTS in a large part of Llanelli are being put under new local restrictions in a ‘health protection zone’ following a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

The town is seeing a concentrated spread of cases compared with other parts of Carmarthenshire – in the last seven days, 85 positive cases have been identified in Llanelli (151.6 per 100,000 of the population) compared to 24 cases in the rest of Carmarthenshire (18.1 per 100,000 of the population).*

Public Health Wales officials are expecting numbers to continue rising over the coming week.

Carmarthenshire County Council and Hywel Dda University Health Board have worked with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to agree the temporary restrictions at sub-county level to try and halt the spread of the virus.

As of 6pm on Saturday September 26, 2020, residents living in defined parts of Llanelli will not be able to visit anyone else’s home, or accept visitors into their home, unless they have a ‘reasonable excuse’ such as providing care for a vulnerable person.

They should not arrange to meet indoors with anyone who they don’t live with, and travel in and out of the ‘health protection zone’ will also be limited – people should not leave the area or travel into the area unless it is essential. Travelling in and out of the zone for a holiday is not considered a reasonable excuse.

People are being asked to wear face coverings anywhere where they cannot maintain a two-metre distance from other people, including collecting children from school, in addition to the rules which already require them to wear a face covering in indoor spaces like shops and on public transport.

All indoor and outdoor visits to residential care homes have also been suspended.

Students may still travel into and out of the ‘health protection zone’ to go to school or college.

People living in the defined area of Llanelli must work from home, and employers must take all reasonable steps to support staff to do so.

Indoor public spaces such as leisure centres should only be used by people living in the defined area.

Shops will remain open, but people living outside the defined area of Llanelli should avoid travelling to visit them and shop in their own locality wherever possible.

The specific wards covered in the defined area of Llanelli are:

  • Bigyn
  • Bynea
  • Dafen
  • Elli
  • Felinfoel
  • Glanymor
  • Hendy
  • Hengoed
  • Llangennech
  • Lliedi
  • Llwynhendy
  • Tyisha
  • Swiss Valley

Although the pattern of increased positive cases is overwhelmingly concentrated in the Llanelli area where the restrictions have been strengthened, the whole of Carmarthenshire has now been put on alert, with a warning that the tighter restrictions may be extended if cases continue to spread.

Everyone – including those in the defined areas of Llanelli – is being urged to follow the national guidance around social distancing, good hygiene, self-isolation, testing and face coverings.

Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “It is worrying to see how sharply the number of positive cases has risen in the Llanelli area, and action has had to be taken to help stop the spread and break the chain of infections concentrated in this area to prevent a whole county lockdown.

“We must all do the right thing, follow the advice and protect each other. In parts of Llanelli, we’re asking people and businesses to make even greater sacrifices – we fully appreciate the impact this will have, but there is no other way. We must stop the spread.”

A mobile testing unit has been set up in Llanelli to manage the increased demand by local residents who have any of the Covid-19 symptoms – either a high temperature, a change or loss to taste or smell or a new continuous cough.

Reporting of positive cases in the town is fully expected to rise during the next two weeks with the increase in more targeted testing. But this is a positive indicator that cases are being identified and control measures put in place.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “Our local community has given us such tremendous support during the past few months. To protect the health of our people, including the most vulnerable, and to ensure our NHS resources are available to provide people with the care they need; we need the help of our Llanelli population and wider community now more than ever before. Whilst hospital admissions have not yet increased again for COVID cases, we have seen a sharp rise in positive cases in the community, and in time this is likely to have an impact on hospital admissions. The very best way we can support each other and those we love, is to follow local restrictions, minimise our contacts, practice good hygiene and self-isolate and book a test if we have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

Increased testing capacity for residents in Llanelli is available by appointment at the following locations:

  • Parc y Scarlets Car Park B, accessed via Trostre Retail Park, in Llanelli
  • The Ty’r Nant site (next to KFC), Trostre, Llanelli
  • The Carmarthen showground (signposted in both directions off the A40)

There should be no reason for Llanelli residents to travel excessive distances for a test, as there will be tests available in Llanelli and Carmarthen. Tests should be booked via the UK Portal. Any Llanelli residents experiencing difficulty booking a test locally via the UK portal can instead email covidenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or by calling 0300 333 2222.

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