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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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Parents warned to look out for respiratory illness in children

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RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season

RESPIRATORY Syncytial Virus (RSV) is circulating amongst children and toddlers in the Hywel Dda area (Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire)  

Hywel Dda UHB Medical Director and Deputy Chief Executive Dr Philip Kloer said: “Because of the COVID restrictions, there have been few cases of RSV during the pandemic, but this virus has returned and in higher numbers now people are mixing more.

“RSV is a common respiratory illness which is usually picked up by children during the winter season, and causes very few problems to the majority of children.  However, very young babies, particularly those born prematurely, and children with heart or lung conditions, can be seriously affected and it’s important that parents are aware of the actions to take.”

Parents are being encouraged to look out for symptoms of severe infection in at-risk children, including:

*a high temperature of 37.8°C or above (fever)

*a dry and persistent cough, difficulty feeding, rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing).

The best way to prevent RSV is to wash hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser regularly, dispose of used tissues correctly, and to keep surfaces clean and sanitised.

Most cases of bronchiolitis are not serious and clear up within 2 to 3 weeks, but you should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if:

  • You are worried about your child.
  • Your child has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, or they have had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more.
  • Your child has a persistent high temperature of 37.8C or above.
  • Your child seems very tired or irritable.

Dial 999 for an ambulance if:

  • your baby is having difficulty breathing
  • your baby’s tongue or lips are blue
  • there are long pauses in your baby’s breathing
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Health Board issues urgent call to anyone due a second Moderna vaccine

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RESIDENTS living in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being urged to check their vaccination card and come forward for their second Moderna vaccine this week if they are due.

Anyone approaching 8 weeks since a first Moderna dose should contact the Hywel Dda University Health Board’s vaccine booking team to make an appointment by calling 0300 303 8322 or by emailing COVIDenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk or attend their nearest mass vaccination centre’s walk-in clinic.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB said, “Our mass vaccination centres are contacting people due a second dose of Moderna directly but in case anyone missed a call from us, we want to make sure that everyone due a second dose, especially Moderna, knows we are asking them to come forward as soon as possible.

“Two doses of the vaccine, regardless of which you received, is important for you to receive the best longer-term protection.

“The Moderna vaccine is available at all walk-in clinics across the three counties and the mobile vaccination van which will be visiting Ammanford’s Tesco store on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 September.”

If you received a first Moderna dose 8 or more weeks ago, you can attend your local centre without an appointment during the following times:

Walk-in opening times:

  • Aberystwyth (Thomas Parry Library, SY23 3AS) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10.00am and 6.00pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available on Thursday 16 September.
  • Ammanford (Tesco car park, Mobile Vaccination Van) – Friday 17 September and Saturday 18 September from 11.00am to 7.00pm.
  • Carmarthen walk-in Halliwell (former Y Gamfa Wen Nursery, UWTSD, SA31 3EP) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10.00am and 4.00pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available.
  • Carmarthen drive-through (United Counties Showground, SA33 5DR) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 6pm. Moderna vaccine available.
  • Cwm-cou (Ysgol Trewen, SA38 9PE) –Open Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 September between 9.30am and 9pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccine available.
  • Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire Archives, SA61 2PE) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 6pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available between 10am and 4pm on Thursday 16 September.
  • Llanelli (Dafen Industrial Estate, Unit 2a, Heol Cropin, SA14 8QW) – open Monday 13 to Thursday 16 September between 10am and 4pm. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines available. AstraZeneca only available on Thursday 16 September.
  • Tenby (Tenby Leisure Centre, SA70 8EJ) – open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for walk-ins between 10am and 4pm. Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines available.
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Operation Elegant: Eight sentenced to 40 years after police break up drugs gang

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EIGHT people have been jailed as part of an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine worth almost £200,000 into Llanelli over a five-month period.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team dismantled the gang which was transporting the class ‘A’ drug between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli in a covert operation named ‘Operation Elegant’.

The operation resulted in more than 2kg of cocaine being supplied by the gang.

Nine defendants, including one who will be sentenced at a later date, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy to supply cocaine between May and October 2020. The eight sentenced so far have  been jailed for a total of 40 years.

Detective Constable Mark Jones, Op Elegant lead officer, said: “This was a lengthy operation involving a number of departments across the force, who investigated intelligence, coordinated a series of warrants, interviewed the defendants and carried out detailed enquiries into their activity.

“Today’s sentencing culminates more than a year of police work, which saw the disruption of a major supply chain into Llanelli and the dismantling of an organised crime gang, which was no doubt linked to illegal behaviour on a wider scale.”

DC Jones explained that the Llanelli gang was headed up by 27-year-old Shaun Hearne, who put together a team of trusted associates to move, store, prepare and distribute cocaine throughout Llanelli.

When restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the availability of the drug, Hearne was not deterred, and approached 25-year-old Aaron Hookway, a Swansea dealer, to source it.

This proved successful, as enquiries revealed the gang bought drugs from upstream supplier Hookway on 13 occasions, using 36-year-old Rebecca Viola’s home in Felinfoel as a stash house to store the commodity.

From there, couriers and sub-dealers Laura Coelho, Neville Ayres, Jordan Dale Parry, Keiran Price and Daniel Rhodri Evans were responsible for distributing the drugs.

“Through our investigation, we discovered that the gang was made up of a number of people acting as couriers and sub-dealers in various areas across Llanelli, directed by Hearne,” DC Jones said.

“Our first step in disrupting their activity was in stopping a car driven by Neville Ayres on 1st September, 2020, during which uniformed officers seized 10 ounces of cocaine.

“Ayres was a trusted employee of Hearne, who had such a blasé attitude towards his illegal behaviour that he had this huge amount of cocaine – worth more than £22,000 – in plain sight in the footwell of his car”.

“Despite this upset, the gang continued with their activity for another month, when we targeted all members with 15 warrants carried out across Llanelli.”

The week-long enforcement phase saw 13 people arrested, with searches also carried out at homes in Swansea, Ceredigion and Cornwall.

Nine of those arrested were charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine. All nine admitted the offence, and eight of them received the following sentences on Monday 6th September 2021 and Tuesday 7th September 2021 at Swansea Crown Court:

  • Head of Llanelli gang Shaun Hearne, aged 27, of Isgraig, Burry Port: 8 years 8 months.
  • Swansea ‘upstream’ dealer Aaron Hookway, aged 25, of Station Road, Fforestfach: 9 years.
  • Courier and Hearne’s partner Laura Coelho, aged 28, of Bond Avenue, Llanelli: 2 years 5 months.
  • Llanelli courier and sub-dealer Neville Ayres, aged 42, of West End, Llanelli: 4 years 9 months.
  • Felinfoel storage and sub-dealer Rebecca Viola, aged 36, of Cae Glas, Llanelli: 4 years.
  • Llanelli sub-dealer Jordan Dale Parry, aged 25, of Dilwyn Street, Llanelli: 3 years 4 months.
  • Llanelli courier Keiran Price, aged 28, of Tirgoff, Llangennech: 4 years 10 months.
  • Llwynhendy sub-dealer Daniel Rhodri Evans, aged 29, of Heol Elfed, Llanelli: 3 years.

The ninth, Llanelli courier Jeffrey Parker-Ward, aged 23, of Stepney Street, will be sentenced at a later date.

As part of the operation, a number of high-value vehicles were seized, along with £11,000 in cash.

Further work is now being carried out as part of a proceeds of crime act investigation, aimed at confiscating criminal assets gained through illegal activities.

“The sentences of a total of 40 years in prison is a testament to the work that was put into this investigation,” DC Jones said.

“Not only have we taken a substantial amount of cocaine out of the supply chain, but we have disrupted the supply into Llanelli, where it would have caused an untold amount of harm to the community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work, determination and commitment with HH Judge Rees commenting that the investigation was commendably executed. I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to act on all concerns over drugs use and abuse.”

BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire Gary Phillips said: “The sentences handed out at Swansea Crown Court are not only a reflection of the significant effort that has been put into this police investigation, but they also send a clear message that being involved in serious and organised crime in Carmarthenshire will ultimately lead to you being targeted by police and put before the courts.”

To report suspicious behaviour in your community, visit https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, email 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or call 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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