A Homeless and Root-Less Project

The Breakfast Club at Dock House was much the same as it has been all week with the same faces and myself, Ash and Dave serving the food and drink as usual.

Halfway through the Breakfast Club I got told to go out with Outreach worker Diane to pick up some bedding that was being donated by a lady who is moving house soon so that was another new thing for me to do.

When we got back to Dock House the Breakfast Club had finished and all the clients had left so it was back to jobs like sweeping and mopping the room where we serve the food and cleaning the kitchen, washing up and putting the pots away, it really doesn’t stop when the last person leaves.

Diane then took Dave away to go to the Aspire Project and, after they had left, Ash and myself set about the main job of the day that was reaching towards a critical level.

Our main job was to do as much weeding as we could manage out the back and down the side of Dock House as it was fast becoming overgrown. What made the job more difficult was that we were trying very much to pull up the roots to stop them growing back which proved very difficult in the majority of the weeds we pulled up.

Another problem down the side is the size of the bushes that had grown from the other side through the barriers, all we had tools-wise was a small trowel which we had to use to cut down the branches of the bushes which were growing over our pathway down the side of the building.

The further we went through the forest of weeds and bushes that had developed the more it felt like a battle that we were having to fight with a silent enemy.

After a stop for lunch we went back outside to keep battling our way through the job we were doing and the muscles and shoulders and backs ached more and more but kept getting punished as we kept going.

Eventually we welcomed some dark clouds and a good rainfall which heralded the end of the weeding for the day, although we were upset that we haven’t yet finished the job which we hope to return to on Tuesday.

Over lunchtime and then progressing into the afternoon Ash tried to explain to me what Sir Alan Turing achieved at Bletchley Park to break the Enigma code during World War 2, and his subsequent influence on modern computing which then led to the production of things like Java Script and Google Chrome apparently, that was a lot of fun having it explained to me by teacher Ash.

Yes I have had a good long soak in the bath before writing this, and yes my shoulders and back are still aching but I wish I didn’t have a day off tomorrow because I want to be helping the homeless as much as I possibly can!!

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Another Day In The Life Of Hull Harp

Today was all about Dock House, we had the usual Breakfast Club with much the same faces as I’ve already seen there this week, then we had to set about doing many other jobs.

Some of the jobs were the usual jobs like cleaning up the kitchen and washing the pots from the Breakfast Club, however there were also other jobs that needed doing which made it a very full-on day.

After we had washed up, cleaned, wiped down, swept and mopped we had to start upstairs as Michele’s office had to be re-arranged in her absence and then a filing cabinet had to be moved from the Outreach Team office to her’s.

Then we had to remove dozens of Pot Noodle’s from the Outreach Team office down to the kitchen because they need to be used sooner rather than later.

After that we had to take a few chairs out of a downstairs store room and put them out the back of the building because they are useless anyway and we needed to create room in there. Then we had the devil of a job of moving a filing cabinet from, you guessed it, the Outreach Team office, to the downstairs store room.

The problem with moving the filing cabinet downstairs is that you have to get it round two very tight corners on the way down, Dave was helping as ever, so was Diane who is one of the Outreach Team, Ash was trying to help carry it down but on such a narrow staircase it was impossible for him to get close enough.

Eventually we made it down the stairs and dragged the cabinet to the store room. During the clear out in the Outreach Team office Diane found some old photos of Dock House. One of the photos shows it in its original guise before it became a shelter, others show bunk-beds in the rooms and one photo we think shows possibly an outreach worker maybe in an old derelict building looking for rough sleepers to help.

During the course of the day we’ve also found some information about the history of Hull Harp.

Hull Homeless and Rootless Project was born on the streets of Hull in 1982 offering soup and bread, information and advice, the soup was organised by the Sisters of Mercy from Endsleigh Convent, in response to the growing number of rough sleepers in Hull.

In 1984 a building was obtained which offered limited day facilities like professional information and advice, access to other professional agencies, meals, washing/bathing and laundry service from 1pm to 6.30pm.

After the death of a rough sleeper in 1988 a local company donated a portable cabin to the project for people to shelter in at night and four years later a direct access night shelter was opened with 10 beds in five rooms, services available then were basic support, meals, clothing and an information and advice service.

The night shelter was opened from 10 o clock at night until 8 o clock in the morning and service users were offered a light supper, TV, washing/bathing, laundry services and breakfast, the day centre also continued to operate.

Due to different medical needs of service users in 1995 Hull Harp strengthened working relationships with various professional agencies like the Community Mental Health Team, Alcohol Advisory Service, Council for Drug Problems, Social Services, Youth Services and Health Services, all of which used a Service User Counselling/Interview room. There was also a close relationship with Probation and the Police.

Then in 1997 the Night Shelter was extended thanks to a £250,000 investment to provide 19 beds each night for both men and women, three years after this provision was extended to make Hull Harp a 365 day, 24 hour facility.

Hull Harp experienced some changes and difficulties with funding. Staff training was given, clearer policies and a more focused provision of staff resource were created to help service users gain access to a wide range of services and for Hull Harp to extend their overall services.

The implementation of Supporting People strategy changed how Hull Harp recorded information and now showed the cost effectiveness. Services at this time now included the Day Centre services and leisure activities (discussions around drug misuse, harm minimisation, basics in numeracy and literacy, living skills, physical and mental health services, leisure activities and art classes), furniture service, food parcels, outreach support and a system for volunteering.

Bed space was increased to 21 beds in 2002 and services included Night Shelter, Day Centre, Free Lunch, a small evening meal, food parcels, activities, laundry facilities, bathing facilities, mental health support, support and advice, a volunteer program, access to other professional agencies, alcohol and substance misuse and drug awareness information and advice. Hull Harp also introduced a policy on Dogs at the project using the National Canine Defence League guidelines for hostels.

In 2003 Hull Harp appointed a new Chief Officer and the Management Committee (Trustees) reorganised. The services remained the same and Supporting People Funding began.

Hull Harp restructured in 2005 to provide 24 hour service to Service Users. New staff were appointed and trained to deliver the 24/7 Service User support services. Two Resettlement Worker posts provide one-to-one key working, Administration Assistant, Domestic and Caretaker posts all provide the essential operational support to ensure that the project runs smoothly and that the environment is clean and safe.

Hull Harp then received Supporting People Certificate of Accreditation in 2006 and, a year later, secured a three year Supporting People contract to run from April 2007 to March 2010. A new Chief Officer was appointed with a remit to prepare the organisation for the Supporting People tendering process that would award future contracts.

Hull Harp launched an Outreach Service and a Rough Sleeper Outreach Worker was appointed to establish contact with those sleeping rough and to engage them with appropriate services at Hull Harp or elsewhere.

Hull Homeless and Rootless Project ceased to exist and the new entity called HULLHARP began in April 2009 and is now a charity Limited by Guarantee. It has a three person management team.

Dock House wpid-wp-1440606081736.jpeg wpid-wp-1440606117820.jpeg wpid-wp-1440606146215.jpeg wpid-wp-1440606173350.jpeg wpid-wp-1440606205217.jpeg

Another Day With Hull Harp

My second day with Hull Harp was very informative again, I met Ash on my way to Dock House for the breakfast club, even from a bit of a distance behind him he’s unmistakable with his great big lot of hair.

As we arrived at Dock House there were people waiting outside again wanting their breakfast as we prepared to open for the Breakfast Club.

Dave was there again and so was Michele to do my induction along with that of the new volunteer who started today.

We started serving at 9 o clock as usual dishing up various breakfast cereals like Weetabix and Corn Flakes to the hungry people who regularly attend there.

After we’d been serving for about half an hour the delight that is Michele came to take me from the kitchen and we went to one of the store rooms to pick out some ingredients for a cooking class that will be taking place at one of the other properties where Hull Harp operate.

After this we went up to her office for my induction which includes filling in lots of forms, sometimes repeating things that we’ve put on other forms, and talking about what I can expect from Hull Harp and, more importantly, what Hull Harp expect from me.

After we had filled in all the paperwork and spoken about what I’ve signed up for I was asked to get Rod, the other new volunteer, from downstairs so we could discuss everything we needed to together before loading up lots of charitable donations like food parcels and bedding into Michele’s car and going to visit the Aspire project.

The Aspire project is based in three houses, one of which has a small office from where the staff work. In there we met Dave and Emma and we were shown round by Chris who had come with us from Dock House while Michele had quick meetings with Emma and Dave.

The houses are quite basic houses of multiple occupancy with things like a cooker and a fridge freezer in them and some furniture although, of course, we didn’t go into any of the occupied bedrooms.

Drink and Drugs are absolutely prohibited at every Hull Harp property and the residents and staff obviously keep the houses clean and tidy and there is a nice relaxing atmosphere as you walk around.

Back in the office we were shown some of the in’s and out’s about working there before bidding Dave, Emma and Chris goodbye.

After a quick stop to drop off some bedding we went back to Dock House because Rod needed to be getting off home to his wife and children.

I stayed for a bit and helped with the washing up from the Tuesday chill-out before coming home, tomorrow I’m back at the Breakfast Club before I go and see another Hull Harp project in action.

wpid-wp-1440514960454.jpeg from left to right at Aspire Project: Emma, Dave, Rod Michele and Chris

wpid-wp-1440515041817.jpeg the team at Aspire project with me in the middle

Working With Hull Harp, Trying To End Homelessness

Today I started working with Hull Harp, an organisation set up to help the homeless people of Kingston Upon Hull.

As a former homeless person myself it means more than anyone could imagine to be doing my bit to help as many people who live on the streets as I possibly can.

My experience of this sort of work started a few weeks ago when I went through my initial training at the former night shelter called Dock House on St. Peter Street, now, having got my clean DBS and my references through, I was starting work there.

As I walked up the street to Dock House there were a few clients waiting outside who had come for the breakfast club that I was volunteering at this morning. I had an overwhelming feeling of doing something positive to help these people who are in the same position I was just over five years ago.

It felt good to be doing something positive to help them, but at the same time it felt very sad and emotional. This is 21st century Britain and NOBODY should have to sleep rough or rely on others for basic provisions.

Since David Cameron and the Conservative party came to power in 2010 the official number of people who are homeless has doubled and the DWP which is run by Iain Duncan-Smith hasn’t exactly helped when making punitive sanctions on people’s benefits which has seen many forced out of their homes onto the streets with nowhere else to go.

I was working with Ash and Dave in the kitchen today, handing out bowls of cereal’s, toast and cups of tea or coffee to the few people who came in.

There is also some clothing, particularly socks, handed out to people who need them and once a week they can bring their dirty laundry in to be washed.

The Tory government has literally laid waste to the people who rely on benefits like a gigantic tsunami trashing everything and everyone who gets in its way, and they show no signs of stopping, for instance by making up stories about fictional people appearing to welcome the sanctions on their benefits.

A few months ago Dock House was closed as a night shelter and is now just open for the breakfast club 9-10 Monday to Friday, the Tuesday chill-out club is there 10.30 to 2.00 and that’s about it at the moment.

This vital service needs to be re-opened as a night shelter as soon as possible, it isn’t just a place where the homeless can go for a bite to eat, it needs to have vulnerable people in there so we have time to assess them and get them the help they need to get off the streets for good.

With each person we served I felt guilty for having a home to go to at the end of it, knowing they have nowhere to go but back on the streets.

Ash is a definite experience to work with as he used to be a resident there and now he is also back there helping out, he’s also quite cheerful especially when joking about having to show me how to use the toaster and studying the first cup of coffee I made for a client.

Dave is very much the Mr Dependable I think, he seems to know everything about everything in there and is only too happy to be giving his time. Michele is a delight to work with when you actually see her, she was in and out a few times today nipping between Dock House and the Aspire project which is another part of Hull Harp.

It’s a very happy and amusing team in Hull Harp and we all have one thing in common, we just want to help as much as we possibly can in any way we can, I’m back at Dock House tomorrow for the breakfast club and the Tuesday chill-out so there will be another update then.

Dock House