Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting EJ NEWS to 80360 or e-mail us
Homeless man now helping other people
8:00am Tuesday 5th November 2013 in News
AS more people turn to foodbanks to feed themselves and their families, the importance of the work done by an Evesham organisation has been highlighted by a success story.
The Caring Hands foodbank and diner has been working with poor and isolated people for 10 years.
Like many others around Worcestershire and further afield it has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of people using the service.
And the work is paying off as some of these people are now giving back to the service based at the Vale of Evesham Christian Centre.
Mark West, aged 30, of Brick Kiln Street, Evesham, is one of them. Until eight months ago he was homeless, living in a tent in Evesham and alcohol dependant. “I’ve lived on the streets on and off all my life,” he said. “I went off with the fair when I was 14. I came back when I was 16 or 17 and have been living in tents and sofa surfing since.
“It’s not great but you get used to it. At the start you do not know where to put yourself or what to do.
“When it rains you get dirty and you have nowhere to wash. You are always looking dirty. Last winter was really bad. It was one of the worst because it was so cold and wet.
“Living in the tent is lonely.
You end up turning to drink to get rid of the day. That’s what happened to me but I am on the road to recovery.”
And part of this recovery is thanks to the people at Caring Hands, where Mr West now volunteers.
“If it wasn’t for Caring Hands I reckon most people wouldn’t survive and they wouldn’t be able to change their sleeping bags and have a wash,” he said.
“I used to come here and have a dinner. Now I have started helping them. I have cooked two of the meals here.
“I have also done a sponsored walk on the Malvern Hills, which I arranged and raised £500 for the centre.
“Coming here gives me a good few hours to do something instead of being out there drinking. They help me and I am learning things and meeting new people. I just like helping people because they have helped me. I want to give something back, like what they have given me.”
Diane Bennett, from Caring Hands, said they were delighted by the number of people turning their lives around.
But the centre is still seeing an increase in need, especially from those affected by changes made to the benefit system in April, “From the first of April when the benefit changes came in it’s had a significant impact on us in that referrals (for food parcels) have increased by 100 per cent.
“Attendance in the diner has increased by about 80 per cent. Now we see about 100 a week. Bedroom tax has started to have a significant impact on people.
“We are maintaining that level of support at the moment.
The idea is to show love and compassion to people in our local community that have a need. We express that by providing food parcels, a range of resources and opening the diner on Monday and Wednesday lunch times.
“We try to make the food as nutritional as possible.
We offer a choice and always a vegetarian option and try to make it as home cooked as possible.
“We have no particular target group, it could be rough sleepers or homeless, or families on low income, those with benefit issues or people in debt.”
Also concerned over the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ was Beverley Hiden, the financial inclusion advisor at Rooftop Housing Group.
She said: “People affected lose 14 per cent of their actual rent if they have one spare bedroom. That is quite a lot of money if we have someone on £71.70. It’s impossible to find that 14 per cent long term. I have been referring more people here than ever before.”
Two others who help at the centre are Tomasz Piotrowski, migration and integration in rural areas project co-ordinator at Wychavon and Kasia Balicka, outreach support worker at St Paul’s Hostel in Worcester.
They work with Eastern European people using Caring Hands as some are unable to communicate well in English.
Mr Piotrowski said: “We see a variety of problems, people struggling with income, accommodation, unemployment, and many lack skills in English.
“A massive majority of people that come to the UK are very successful in finding jobs but some struggle.”
Comments are closed on this article.