Wednesday is different,” says our Development Co-ordinator. Maybe.
But on this second Wednesday of September, in addition to our normal
routines, we were not delivering furniture to a client in Middleton,
nor collecting second-hand clothes from a benefactor in Bramhope,
nor detouring with a client via Lawnswood CID to sign the bail register,
etc. Such non-routine activities are positively interesting.
On this particular Wednesday our van wouldn’t start. Flat battery.
It had drained overnight following the soup-run because of a faulty
courtesy-light — a fault that had occurred before. “Unscrew the
bulb” I suggested. “No”, came the answer, “it’s needed when we’re
giving out things at the soup-run.” And wouldn’t you guess: the
emergency battery provided by the garage also turned out to be flat.
So: re-plan the morning. Using private cars, the clothes-sorting
team would drive to Holbeck while I looked for the garage in Harehills
to get the battery re-charged.
whether it’s logical or not, these petty frustrations somehow felt
as if they were all a direct consequence of no longer being able
to afford the (much increased) rent on our former Mabgate premises.
the Headingley St Columba Newsletter last carried a piece
about the Leeds Simon Community (“Only a cup of soup”), it was two
years ago. A lot has changed in the meantime. Two whole generations
of full-time client support-workers have done the job and moved
on. Then, we were just moving into a new base in Mabgate and getting
ready to appoint the excellent Development Worker who has anchored
our activities admirably ever since. Now, the funding from Trusts
has largely run out, and we are suffering the pains of cutting back.
to Emmaus, we have both storage space for blankets, an excellent
base from which to deliver the Tuesday soup-run, and a secure compound
for the van. Thanks to the White Rose Charity Initiative, we have
ample space for clothes storage. Thanks to the Sisters of Charity,
we have a secure room to house our telephone, computer and files.
So we are able to continue the day-to-day work, albeit living with
uncertainty nearly as great as some of our clients.
there still a need for direct work amongst rough sleepers? — “After
all” (you may be thinking) “didn’t the Government just recently
announce that annual rough sleeping figures for 2005 show a 75%
reduction since 1998, down from 1850 to 459?” Indeed they did. But
to us at Leeds Simon Community, the scale of this apparent reduction
looks absurd. At the last official headcount in Leeds (March), the
number of rough sleepers recorded was 2. Just six weeks later our
volunteers, with greater knowledge of where to look, located 15.
Last August (summer weather) we worked with as many as 33.
does Leeds Simon Community need? At the moment it is mainly finance,
to ensure that our full-time volunteer workers get paid the minimum
wage. For their commitment to befriending men and women on skid
row they deserve unqualified admiration. Their basic job is to establish
relationships of trust with our clients, non-judgmentally, helping
them to re-integrate. Apart from finance, we are only too pleased
to be offered blankets. — We gladly collect. With heartfelt thanks.