Soup Run Meeting

Beki Winter, Outreach Manager

Last Monday evening, around 45 individuals gave up their evening to come to The Connection to talk/hear about the issues around the provision of free food on the Strand. There have been instances of anti-social behaviour, road traffic accidents and damage to buildings due to the crowds congregating for free food at the Strand between Rymans and Zimbabwe House. The meeting was attending by a good cross section of representatives including local residents, businesses, the police, groups regularly serving food on the Strand, homeless agencies and the council.

Some people took advantage of a pre-meeting tour conducted by the fundraising ladies who really helped to get the message across that there is provision in Westminster for homeless people as well inform people of the extent of services and support that we offer.

The meeting was chaired by Jeremy Swain who facilitated the session ensuring everyone’s point of view was heard. Two representatives from businesses in the Charing Cross underpass outlined the extent of the problem of homelessness related anti-social behaviour by describing in detail the harassment, urination and defecation, litter etc that they face on a daily basis. Colin Glover, The Connection’s Chief Executive, later acknowledged our own responsibility in tackling this. The representatives from the Zimbabwe Embassy were most concerned about the risk to themselves of a terrorist act due to the number of abandoned rubbish bags left after the soup runs. Some soup run providers raised concerns about the lack of services in the borough but Nik Ward and I were able to dispel these beliefs

Over all a very positive meeting that led to more positive interactions after the meeting; I’ll be taking some people out on the streets soon to see for themselves the work we do and several soup run providers were in discussions about where else they might be useful.

There’s still a lot more work to do and I’ll be part of a working group to keep tackling this. Big thanks to Leslie & Richard for excellent food and drinks and to the fundraising team for the tours.

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The Power of Pals

Laurence, a former client, who has been working in the same job for several years has arranged for a current client, he is still in touch with, to have an interview with the company. The interview went well and Workspace has kitted him out with suitable clothing for a work trial.  Fingers crossed everybody! 

Laurence says: “I know a lot of people at The Connection as friends and if people are willing to get help and take steps towards change I’ll do what I can to help them. I’ve been there so I know what it’s like. The Connection helped me and now it’s my turn to give people a chance. I work in hospitality and started off selling coffees but now I’m a supervisor and learning lots of new things.”

We’ll keep you posted on Laurence’s progress at helping homeless people back into work!

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My Pret Experience Day

Denise Henson – Deputy Manager, Employment, Training & Education Service

I have just completed a morning working at Pret a Manger based at Victoria Place Shopping Centre, having just entered a new partnership with Pret to refer our clients to the Simon Hargreaves Apprenticeship Scheme.  Before we send any clients along we needed to experience being a team member for ourselves – there is never an average day for a careers advisor at the Connection but this was certainly a unique experience for me.

The idea of the experience day is for those Pret’s charity partners to get a good feel for the different roles in their restaurants so that we can recruit effectively. So I had the chance to put myself in the shoes of a new recruit at Pret for a morning.

It’s an early start – most of the staff I worked alongside had been there since 5am, chopping vegetables and getting things ready for the shops to open just after 6am.  By the time we got there and were kitted out in our Pret shirts it was time to join the kitchen team debrief and then be placed with someone in the kitchen putting baguettes and sandwiches together.

I found myself chatting happily with the staff – everyone made us feel really welcome and soon involved us in their work – between Sophia and I we made 76 tuna mayo baguettes in about 30 minutes! I think I must have slowed her down but she didn’t mind and was very patient with me.  While putting these together I was wondering who was going to buy the baguettes and enjoy their lunch at Pret today.  I was also considering the clients that we will put forward for work and how this environment would be a good starting point for someone who has been out of the working world for such a long time.

One of the staff there described the team as being more of a family and everyone seemed to relate really well socially, from all different backgrounds and walks of life.  For our clients who have often felt isolated for so long I wondered how they would adjust but then Alessio heard from a recent graduate of the apprenticeship scheme how supportive everyone was to them.

We also got to help out on the shop floor, speaking to customers – or at least asking other team members where the sugar, napkins and toilets are as I found I couldn’t answer most of those questions!  We learnt about the hot chef role and the barista as well as helping to sweep up and wipe down tables.

When the morning was over I can honestly say that as out of my depth as I was I left feeling a part of that team and even that I’d contributed to their work in a small way today. I feel sure that the apprenticeship scheme will be a step in the right direction – permanently out of homelessness and integrated into a supportive team of colleagues. What a great partnership to be in. I’m looking forward to bringing an update in the months to come when some of our client have successfully completed the apprenticeship and are working in various Pret a Manger restaurants across London.

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#Stepup Steps Forward!

Step Up Facts

Wyn Newman – User Involvement & Development Manager

24 applications
21 invited to interview
12 trained
9 progressed to placement
9 people have delivered 55 sessions (220 hours) 4 people have graduated. One of which one has a job, one a six month paid apprenticeship, one an external placement and one a long-term volunteering role with an external organization.

Day Centre
12 applications
12 invited to interview
7 trained 4 progressed to placement 4 people have delivered 32 sessions (128 hours)

Other positive outcomes: Volunteers now used to show potential funders around.

Literacy Volunteers
4 applications received 4 people interviewed 2 people trained and 1 learner recruited

1. It is inclusive – we have substance misusers and rough sleepers involved
2. It was developed in response to feedback from service users and is being shaped by them
3. Demonstrating positive outcomes in terms of getting people into jobs, apprenticeships etc. and also to engage with other services e.g. housing, help with gambling
4. It is leading to a cultural change within the organization, developing a new way of working



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8 men, 3 women, 11 stories, 1 team, 1 day

Anna Norton – Advice & Housing Manager

In one day the Advice & Housing team saw 11 people. Below are some of their stories about how they found themselves homeless.

Russian female illegally trafficked into the UK and forced to be a sex worker but later escaped. Had 2 children but shortly after the birth of her second child she developed post natal depression and started to drink heavily. She eventually went into rehab but her partner was being physically and sexually violent towards her. For most of 2011/12 she has either been in detox/rehab or with friends.

UK male who had to leave his accommodation when his business started to fail. He is sleeping rough. He is bankrupt and subject to Trading Standards prosecution and waiting court dates and refusing to return to local area.

Young female refugee arrived from northern England. She was living in council accommodation but the term has ended and she’s moved to London because she was isolated and wants to be part of the Eritrean community. She has no where to go and no funds.

Elderly male who has a tenancy in Scotland but wants to live in London as he is having trouble with his neighbours.  He does not want to return.

Young male sleeping rough in central London. He is withdrawn and depressed and admits that something “is not right” but he cannot explain how he feels. He presents as calm but is very agitated ‘inside’. He smokes cannabis and he says he has no friends.

Elderly female who cannot remember where she was last night and has poor short term memory issues? She has a history of drinking and presented with very poor physical health including head lice and a very bad eye infection. She has No Identification and is not in receipt of any income.

Middle aged Male. Relationship breakdown led to depression and his life ‘ending’ and everything falling apart. Lost his business due to drinking and home due to debts. Rough sleeping after being deported for illegally working abroad where he went to   ‘escape memories’. He says he has hit rock bottom since returning to the UK and has a history of suicide attempts.

Male crack user. Has had no permanent address for the last 6 years as using crack and stealing to supply his habit. Squatting and transient lifestyle in the West End. Needs help to address substance misuse issues and find accommodation. Has no income.

Male lived in private rented accommodation but was asked to move out by his landlord and has no where else to go. Tearful and previously had a nervous breakdown after loosing his business and house and his marriage ending. Has a history of severe depression with suicidal thoughts and is currently consuming ½ a bottle of vodka daily.

Young Eastern European recently come out of prison and is sleeping in squats/internet cafes/ buses and sleeping rough all over London. Suffering from stomach problems and also his toe nails are falling out. Not linked into any primary health care services.

European male working who was getting live in jobs when he could and moving from place to place as and when he found a job. He has a tumour and needs surgery. He has no benefits and no where to live and is currently sleeping rough.

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What is Step Up?

Wyn NewmanUser Development & Involvement Manager

The Step Up project is designed to give the people who use our services, who are not ready to access employment, a supported introduction to employment and the working world within The Connection. So far our clients have successfully volunteered in the Kitchen and the Day Centre. Two people have also been trained to help other clients learn to read, using the scheme promoted by Westminster Council, Yes we can read. We are in the process of recruiting learners.

Our aim is to remove the barriers that make it difficult to volunteer. The people who take part often do so because they are keen to give something back to us for the help we have given them.

All applicants have to complete an application form which we will help them with, if needed, and attend an interview. Before starting work they attend two training sessions, the first delivered by our volunteer manager and myself covers what we expect and what the volunteer can expect of us. The second involves specific skills, for example in the kitchen they have to complete a basic food hygiene course.  Each volunteer has a staff coach who is there to support them.

We received our first application in January and to date 12 people have become volunteers and completed volunteering sessions. Shortly we will start to re-advertise for both the Day Centre and the Kitchen and we are also currently in the process of identifying new roles and opportunities that will be of interest to others.

So far Step Up has gone very well and I plan to start to tweet regular updates of what we are doing  @wynnewman

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Our Football Team Win the Coram Fields (Russell Square) League!

A pretty unbelievable season for us here at The Connection at St Martin’s (CSTM) football team.

We run training sessions with homeless clients every Friday (numbers and weather permitting) and our regulars rarely miss a session.

Pete Mason who is our resident football coach and font of knowledge for all things sporting and a UEFA B Licence coach to boot!

Pete has been running The Connection football sessions for over 15 Years!! Yes really! And he still has the same desire and fire for the sport as he ever had.

My name is Chris and I support Pete in running the footy!

We belong to a league at Coram Fields near Russell Square which runs all season and has around 20 to 26 teams in two leagues.

Our boys not only won promotion last season (after a few years in the bottom league) but went on to win this year’s top league!!

Take for instance Dixon. One of our success stories, He and his brother Moses (another footy regular) are from Uganda and have not only found steady jobs but are now funding a league back in their home country.

Dixon found out from us about our workspace team who help clients back into work. Dixon landed a work placement through our Workspace team with John Lewis and did so well they offered him a full time job! I pop in and see him at their flagship store on Oxford Street. Dixon and his brother Moses are true hard working lads who also absolutely love football.

Dixon had previously worked as a welder and one employer decided not to pay him after he worked there for a month. His good nature and hard working ethic was abused by an unscrupulous employer. Through the football training we got to learn about his situation and were able to give advice, support and help him towards a proper job with a reliable employer!

Just one of many success stories from our team of players.

Even while some of our clients are still homeless they try to make training and matches to support our team. We often play in the league with no substitutes as it’s all about who turns up on the day.

Clients do change in attitude away from the day centre and a lot of opening up happens. Information that may not be disclosed within the Connection Day Centre can come out over a training session or football match.

Our ethic is – Life is like sport. The more you put in, the more you get out and the harder you work the luckier you get!!

Oh yes Mr Freud. We know a thing or two about mind and body!

Long may it continue.

Chris and Pete

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We Found Tom with Nasty Burns on his Arm

“I Opened my Eyes and a Man was Peering down at me with a Gas Canister”

We found Tom with nasty burns on his arm, testament to how dangerous it is sleeping rough. He was viciously attacked for his bag, which contained all his possessions including his passport, without which he cannot return home or get work.

“I went to sleep but I woke because I could hear someone doing something and I said ‘man what are you doing?’ but he had a gas canister in his hand and burnt my arm and then took my bag.  It’s good it wasn’t on the face. But, I don’t know what people are thinking. If you’re living on the street how do they think you have money. It was the first time I realised how important having a passport is. It’s like you don’t exist without it. I can’t do anything without it. But, I know this year I will get my passport, I will get a job and I will be with my wife and son again. I know it will be good.”

We’re working with Tom to replace his passport and find work. He’s also staying in our emergency night centre while we find him permanent accommodation.


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Golden Memory

A great night was had by all at the Friends of The Connection’s Paved with Gold concert at St Martin’s in June.  Featuring wonderful and moving performances from Streetwise Opera, Woven Gold and the St Martin’s Choral Singers, the event was beautifully put together by St Martin’s Music Director, Andrew Earis.

Playing to a packed house, each troupe performed individually, then everyone came together for the finale, a fantastic and stirring rendition of Amazing Grace. On behalf of the Friends of The Connection at St Martin’s, a huge thanks to all the performers, to Richard Carter and everyone at St Martin’s, to Nigel Thorpe – our concert group Chair, to Helen Bamber and Douglas Board who spoke so movingly, to the volunteers who helped out on the night, and, last but not least, to all our guests who contributed so generously.  It was a lovely, inspiring evening and one which raised a great sum (final amount to be confirmed soon) for the Connection’s work.

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Running with the Olympic Torch!

Susan Grace, one of our volunteers, was nominated by her employer Lloyds TSB  Bank for her charitable contribution to run with the Olympic torch and on Monday she ran in Merton!

As part of her award for making a difference in volunteering in the community and organising events for colleagues to volunteer in the community , Lloyds TSB also gave a grant of £200 to a charity of Susan’s choice and she nominated The Connection. Susan talks about how it felt to run with the torch:

“It was such an amazing experience running down Merton High Street with huge crowds cheering me on. My sister and her partner had come over from Australia to watch me and it was so heart warming. The weather was perfect for it.  One lady in our group had to run up hill in this heat so I was pleased it was relatively flat where I was.  On my way home on the tube everyone wanted to take my picture with the torch. It’s now on display at work but then I’m going to take it home. It really was a lovely afternoon.”

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