HAVING 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.
“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.
Police appeal after river death in Ystradgynlais
DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses following the death of a man in Ystradgynlais.
At around 10am this morning (16 January 2020), a man aged in his 60s was seen entering the River Tawe near Gorsedd Park.
He was rescued from the water near Trebanos Rugby Club, but despite the best efforts of paramedics, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. His next of kin and HM Coroner have been informed.
His death is not being treated as suspicious, or linked to the adverse weather.
Our thanks go out to all who assisted in the response to this tragic incident, in very difficult weather conditions.
Anyone with information is urged to contact police in Ystradgynlais online by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Use reference: DP-20200216-217
New Body Cameras for Transport for Wales Staff
Last year alone, saw over 350 reported accounts of physical or verbal abuse against staff on trains in Wales and whilst this is a small number in terms of the overall passenger journeys, TfW are keen to further reduce this number as any incident should not be tolerated.
Antisocial figures in Wales show an improving trend in comparison with the rest of the UK and TfW has previously committed to providing CCTV at every station across the Wales and Borders network and already introduced additional security staff.
This trial is another step forward in reducing this type of behaviour and is being delivered in partnership with the British Transport Police.
The trial will include four different type of cameras, and after a review period, one company will be selected to supplying 300 across the network.
Ken Skates, Welsh Government Transport and North Wales Minister, said:
“Everyone has the right to work or travel on our network without the fear of abuse or threats. The rail staff there to help us are no different to our family and friends. They are working hard to get us from A to B, often in difficult circumstances.
“We must stamp out anti-social behaviour and do everything we can to support staff to do their jobs and let passengers make their journeys in a safe and pleasant environment.”
Daniel Hopkin, a frequent rail passenger on the Neath to Cardiff line added:
“It’s great that Transport for Wales are fitting their staff with cameras. I regularly travel between Neath and Cardiff on the train and I think that any improvements in safety will benefit customers.
“The railway station can be really hectic and the fact that staff will have body cameras should act as a deterrent to some of the occasional bad behaviour. Transport for Wales seem to be considering different ways to improve things for the customer and I find that encouraging as a passenger.”
Marc Clancy, Transport for Wales Conductor said:
“We have to deal with a range of people daily and most of our customers are grateful and polite. We work extremely hard to give our customers the best possible experience when using our services, however at times staff and passengers do experience occasional antisocial behaviour and abuse.
“The introduction of these cameras should act as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour, support assault prosecutions and boost public confidence in safety.
“They will provide our front-line staff with more confidence when dealing with difficult situations and abusive customers.”
BTP Superintendent Andrew Morgan, said:
“The safety of passengers and our rail industry colleagues is our absolute priority and we do everything we can to protect them.
“We fully support the introduction of body worn cameras for Transport for Wales’ frontline staff – we know from experience that body worn video is a fantastic piece of kit that helps us in securing convictions against those who target staff with unnecessary violence or abuse.
“We hope the introduction will deter anti-social behaviour and provide reassurance to rail staff as well as passengers.
Fortunately, these types of incidents are few and far between, however if anyone has any concerns while travelling, they can text us on 61016.”
Police appeal following fatal road traffic collision
“Dyfed-Powys Police is appealing for witnesses to a single vehicle road traffic collision which occurred on an unclassified road eastbound between Afon Dulais and Pantygwyn, Capel Dewi around 3pm on Saturday 8th February 2020.
Sadly the 50-year-old female driver passed away at the scene.
The vehicle involved was a 64 plate Grey Nissan NV200 Acenta.
If anyone has any information on this incident please contact Carmarthenshire serious collision investigation unit on the 101 number quoting reference 185 for the 08th February
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