Homelessness can happen to anyone
Homelessness can happen to anyone – even qualified professionals. Antonio came to the UK in 1976 after qualifying as a Paediatrician in the former Soviet Union. He started his career at the old St Bart’s Hospital, Rochester, and worked at various hospitals in the UK. We met him early in 2016 when he arrived at Caring Hands having spent 4 nights sleeping rough. He had been evicted without warning, and we spent the day trying to find him somewhere safe to sleep.
“My career was terminated illegally in 2005 following the Harold Shipman scandal, when I was asked to produce my ILR (indefinite leave to remain in the UK—he is Nigerian). I had obtained this through a London solicitor some years earlier. Without it, I would never have been able to obtain my National Insurance number or medical registration. Unfortunately I’d lost my Nigerian passport and this document, so I lost my job and subsequently my lovely home. I rented a flat in Chatham for a while, but became homeless last winter.
“I contacted Caring Hands soon after. This organisation has given me enormous support morally and otherwise—almost lifesaving. I am currently in my own accommodation, but I can’t bear to be there all the time. With rent of £415 to pay from my NHS pension, without the generous breakfast and lunch I get at Caring Hands I would not be able to cope.
“Please support this organisation as generously as you can. God bless and thank you.”
“Caring Hands bend over backwards to help you”
“The people are nice here, generous, it’s a good place to come. If Caring Hands didn’t exist I’d be walking the streets all day long.
“When I first came here, they helped me out in a big way. I’d had no benefits in 11 weeks. I was stressed out. They helped me sort it out. You get fed well here, and often get food to take away. They bend over backwards to help you. And most importantly, they treat you with respect.”
“It’s so many things to so many people”
“Caring Hands is part of my support network. It’s part of my Christian network. And it gives me the opportunity to encourage other people and listen to their stories. Having been through it all myself, I don’t judge, just empathise.” (Sue was a working Mum with three children and a mortgage, then she got ME. Over the course of the next few years she lost her health, her job and finally her home. She now has somewhere to live and continues to come to Caring Hands to give back).
“Homelessness is a great leveller. It can happen to any of us, given a few bad breaks. You find yourself vulnerable, depressed and despised by most of society. Caring Hands provides fellowship, and a sanctuary. People can come in and sleep because it’s a place of safety. Out in the streets, it’s hard, trying to keep yourself warm, clean and well. Here you can have a hot shower, hot food, help. You can use a phone or the internet for free, or you can get someone to contact your family just to let them know you’re safe.
“Caring Hands is so many things to so many people. It serves the community it stands in.”
“I was confused, lost and hurt and at the same time I hurt everyone around me, especially my family”
"I was homeless living in Chatham with nothing when I first came to Caring Hands. I was a broken man, addicted to class-A drugs, going in and out of prison for the crimes I committed to feed my addiction. I was confused, lost and hurt and at the same time I hurt everyone around me, especially my family.
I started using the facility and allowed the staff to help me put my life back together. I began to volunteer for Caring Hands after all they had done for me and loved every minute of it."
Through Caring Hands' connection to COOK [who regularly donate, clothing and send staff to volunteer as well as offer jobs to our guests who are at the self-fulfilment stage in our recovery process], I got a job. That gave me stability to get married, rent a flat, do my driving test and get a car on the road. Now life is wonderful to me. I'm a Christian and I continue to change for the better.
“He lost his job and the same day came home to discover his marriage was over. Within three months he found himself without a home. ”
Our Assistant Manager Simon knows from personal experience how easy it is to become homeless. A successful Set Manager who was involved with building the first Big Brother house, he worked on TV and feature films like Bad Girls and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. With big budgets and tight schedules, he was under pressure at work and began to drink to relieve the stress.
He lost his job and the same day came home to discover his marriage was over. Within three months he found himself without a home.
He first arrived at Caring Hands as a guest, and an alcoholic. But this is the beginning of his story, not the end. With the support and friendship he found at Caring Hands, he hasn’t touched alcohol since 27th Jan 2014.
Having left school with no qualifications, he took a METcic course in GSCE-equivalent literacy and numeracy and passed. He started volunteering at Caring Hands, and thanks to Cook’s Chef-Director, Dale Penfold, underwent on-the-job training to become our chef. He is pretty handy at maintenance too, and helped build a menagerie in the Caring Hands garden.
As Assistant Manager, Simon wants to help others to turn their lives around, just like he was helped.
“Kelly and I were extremely impressed by the work of Caring Hands in the Community and the wide-range of fantastic facilities it offers to service users”
Theresa May, home secretary at the time, said she was “impressed” by Caring Hands following a visit on November 12, 2014.
The Conservative politician made the comments after touring the facilities with Kelly Tolhurst, the Conservative candidate for Rochester and Strood, and meeting staff and service users.
Ms May said: “Both Kelly and I were extremely impressed by the work of Caring Hands in the Community and the wide-range of fantastic facilities it offers to service users.
“The Third Sector has an essential role in helping people get back on track and there is a lot to learn from the work done by... the team.”
“Kent Police is proud to be associated with the work that the charity undertakes, not just in terms of reducing crime and antisocial behaviour, but in community cohesion and the much wider work of social integration.”
"Kent Police has had a long tradition of working with Caring Hands and is proud of its association with the charity.
The thing that really stands out about the charity is its motto that it’s not just about handing out but it’s giving people a hand up and they make a very real difference to the central area of Chatham; working with some of the most disadvantaged individuals in that area, around providing some of the practicalities of life but also around enhancing their skills and their ability to get on in life that makes a real difference in both in terms of the local police officers but also in terms of the wider community in improving the local area of Chatham and helping the area to flourish.
It makes a very real difference in the lives of those people across all backgrounds and all ages and Kent Police is very proud to be associated with the work that it undertakes
The work of the charity in improving the lives of a whole cross section of individuals is really important.
It’s not just around the practicalities of food and shelter but it’s around giving individuals the skills that they need to improve their lives and move them from a place that where they have been which is often involved in crime and antisocial behaviour and moving away to a life which is far more fulfilling and integrated into society.
The community cohesion work that the charity undertakes is very important. Bringing people form a variety of different backgrounds and communities together really does show benefit in terms of the work that they undertake."
“I cannot praise highly enough the efforts by all involved with Caring Hands in the Community”
After a visit to Caring Hands Ms Tolhurst said, “Growing up and living in Medway I know all about our generosity of spirit and Caring Hands in the Community is a great example of it.
“It was a privilege visiting the charity with the Home Secretary and I cannot praise highly enough the efforts by all involved with Caring Hands in the Community.”
“Everyone comments on how impressed they are in terms of how the Day Centre operates”
“Kent Community Foundation has been proud to support Caring Hands over a number of years, regularly visiting the Day Centre and taking along a number of our fund holders to see their work in action. Everyone comments on how impressed they are in terms of how the Day Centre operates, but also how key it is in helping those individuals supported in getting their lives back on track. These observations have only been strengthened when we have met and listened to people whose future has been genuinely transformed through the support and dedication of the staff and volunteers.”
“A job, responsibility and a regular salary is an important step in rebuilding a life and we are proud to currently employ three full-time staff who were helped by Caring Hands”
I first started working with Caring Hands in the Community some four years ago. Our business, COOK, makes and sells remarkable frozen meals for the great British public. We try and keep waste to a minimum, but inevitably there are some portions left over from time to time in our Kitchen. This has enabled us to supply top-quality food to Caring Hands to help feed some of the most vulnerable people in Medway.
Working with them in their lovely kitchen in Chatham, I have met some amazing people. Because of COOK’s commitment to being ‘a force for good in society’, we’ve been able to offer employment to some of them – including those who have been homeless or spent time in prison. A job, responsibility and a regular salary is an important step in rebuilding a life and we are proud to currently employ three full-time staff who were helped by Caring Hands. They are some of the most dedicated and valued members of our team.
Our relationship is open, honest and grows stronger with time. I personally feel very privileged to have met such a caring bunch of people who really are making a difference and turning lives around.
Dale - Chef Director
“The service Caring Hands provide to the Kent Police Initial Police Learning and Development Programme is always professional, friendly and most of all educational.”
The aim of the student officer placement is to maximise the learning experience for the student police officers and to give them an understanding of organisations and diverse community groups within Kent. This provides an opportunity for organisations and communities to contribute to the training of Kent Police officers, thus strengthening working relationships and enhancing better understanding and appreciations.
Kent Police have been working in partnership with Caring Hands for a number of years. They are always readily supportive and accepting in hosting student police officers either on a two or four day placement and have hosted a vast number of students over the years. The hard work and effort Caring Hands put into the student placements is reflected within each student’s feedback. The service Caring Hands provide to the Kent Police Initial Police Learning and Development Programme is always professional, friendly and most of all educational.
Some feedback from Kent Police students:
• I really enjoyed working with Caring Hands, the volunteers of Caring Hands are a fantastic group of people who go out of their way on a daily basis to help vulnerable and homeless people. I have never experienced anything like it, Caring Hands was incredible and it really helped me to understand some of the problems facing the homeless community and the way in which support services try to help them turn their lives around. The staff of caring hands was very open about their life stories and how they came to work for the charity and service users spoke openly with me about their circumstances, I found this to be a big eye opener. I have learnt about some of the realities of life for someone who finds themselves homeless, the difficulties they face in society, the support which is available to them and how the police can work with organisations such as Caring Hands to ensure they get the help they need.
• This placement has shown me how important organisations and charities such as Caring Hands are to the public and to the police service in rehabilitation and also prevention of crime. It has shown me that we as a police force are not the only organisation that can reduce crime and that by liaising with organisations such as Caring Hands we can work as a team to help vulnerable people or people fighting addiction the help that they need in order to be part of the community.
• I loved every moment of it. All staff/volunteers and clients were overall very friendly and welcoming to me. I realised quickly there was a community within the centre whereby the clients interacted with the staff and volunteers but also with each other, showing concern for others when they were having a bad day or not doing very well. Those that are involved in Caring Hands are people that have the biggest hearts, give up their own time to help others and are very selfless. They are always thinking about those that use the facilities at Caring Hands. I have learnt that nobody chooses a particular lifestyle and not to judge anyone. Nobody has chosen to be an alcoholic or a drug addict. I will benefit from my time at Caring Hands as I am able to use my new knowledge when policing. I now understand how so frequently people have been let down by organisations that should be helping them and therefore their trust in people is often zero. If and when I speak to anyone who may benefit from the help of Caring Hands I can pass on the details and explain exactly what they can offer and how they would benefit, something I never knew was available in Medway previously.
• I felt really lucky to be given the opportunity to attend a placement with Caring Hands in the Community. I have not had any previous experience working with homeless individuals before and I was very much looking forward to interacting and learning from these individuals and the organisation as a whole. The overall experience of my placement was amazing and I would do it again given the chance. I was astounded at the facilities on offer to the homeless provided by Caring Hands in the Community. The staff and volunteers were so welcoming, friendly and hospitable. They put the service user’s welfare at the forefront of everything they do and it was truly inspiring to see the relationships staff member and service users have formed. This placement has not only changed my outlook on homelessness but has made me more aware of the how people become homeless, which most of the time is through circumstance rather than fault of their own. It has made me aware that anyone could find themselves in similar situations to those that frequent Caring Hands and has made me want to do more for individuals especially when it comes to front line policing. Having that relationship is vital for breaking down barriers between the police and those that are homeless. I have learnt that it is important to ensure members of the public, especially the vulnerable, have trust in the police – knowing that the right thing will be done by them and they will be treated as human beings regardless of their current circumstances. I feel that I have really benefitted from this experience, and it has given me not only knowledge on this demographic but also as of their needs from society and what I can do as a police officer to aid their needs.
“Kent Frozen Foods is honoured to be able to support the vital work of Caring Hands”
We all feel that no one should go hungry in this country, but the truth is many do. Kent Frozen Foods is honoured to be able to support the vital work of Caring Hands by donating food weekly.
It helps our community and avoids disposing of good food which helps no one. We know that when we fill their food stores, all the food will be used to support the less fortunate people of the Medway Towns.
Caring Hands cook healthy meals for those who need it most, people who are vulnerable, homeless or just need a hand up in life. We have been donating to Caring Hands for several years now, and we can’t think of a better cause to support in this way.