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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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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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Tir Coed build outdoor classroom for Cross Hands Primary

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The local charity Tir Coed teamed up with Cross Hands Primary School to design and install a locally grown woodland shelter to enable primary school pupils to benefit from outdoor lessons-even when
the rain pours!

Last year Cross Hands Primary School received funding from Carmarthenshire is Kind for their intergenerational project. The project brought the schoolchildren together with older people in the community. Through intergenerational activities, everyone involved increases social connectedness, reduces social isolation, learns from one another and has a great time!

Before the lockdown, Tir Coed was contracted to lead a group mainly made up of parents from the school on a shelter-building course. The attendees would gain knowledge and skills and the children and the older people would be able to use the shelter, a third generation now included in this
fantastic project. The plans, however, had to change due to restrictions and in an effort to have it ready for the children when they returned to school, three intrepid Activity Leaders braved the wet August weather to build the beautiful shelter .

Studies have shown that being in the outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the Corona Virus. With this addition to their already impressive outdoor area, it is hoped that more learning can
take place outside the classroom. Deputy Head, Emma Walters said, “It looks amazing! I am very impressed with the shelter and I cannot thank Tir Coed enough for organising this. Additional covered space in the outdoors will mean that we can take more learning into our lovely nature
area.”

If you would like to find out more about the work of Tir Coed or have a project you would like our help with you can contact Nancy, the Carmarthenshire Coordinator: carms@tircoed.org.uk

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Local sailor taking on virtual London marathon

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A local sailor based in the Falkland Islands will be taking on the Virtual London Marathon this October to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity.

Curtis Bowen, 24, from Llanelli, South Wales, was due to take on the London Marathon for SSAFA this April, but following the Covid-19 outbreak and lockdown, the race was cancelled. 

Fortunately, the London Marathon team created the Virtual London Marathon in its place, allowing runners to take on the challenge virtually alongside thousands of other runners on the 4th October.

Curtis said: “It was a shame that the London Marathon couldn’t go ahead as planned in April, but I think it is amazing that I am still able to partake whilst being in the Falkland Islands. I’m the first person to ever run the London Marathon in the Falkland Islands.”  

Curtis is currently serving in the Royal Navy, as a Leading Supply Chain Logistician, and has served for four years. His Father also served in the Royal Navy for twenty-three years.

The live virtual event on Sunday 4th October will invite runners to run the London Marathon in their own way, joining up to 45,000 runners up and down the country – and across the world – in the virtual 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon, The 40th Race.

Curtis decided to raise money for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity after being an avid supporter of the charity and being inspired by his Father, Andrew, who raised over £6,000 for SSAFA. 

I chose to run the London Marathon for SSAFA to challenge myself and raise awareness for a great cause. My younger brother sadly took his own life a couple of years ago and I know that SSAFA are there to support those struggling with their Mental Health. I want to raise as much money as I can to support those struggling within the Armed Forces community.”

“My Father was also supposed to be running the London Marathon this year, but will now be completing the challenge virtually, alongside my brother, Luke, 12,000km away in South Wales.”

If you would like to support Curtis, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Andrew-Bowen-London-marathon2020

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