I arrived at 6:30 to help prepare the food/drinks and packing for the soup run. A lovely man called Tony was the leader, he has been doing soup runs for 14 years and gave me a few tips on what to expect from the people on the street. There were about 10 volunteers and there was plenty on offer: potato/pasta bake, tea, coffee, sweets, biscuits, water, juice, hot chocolate, bread, toothpaste and lady things.
We went to Hoyle Street which is part of the red light district near Picadilly. When we arrived there was a group of about 25 people waiting for us, 25 was a good turn out especially as England were playing football at the time. I was a little nervous turning up as I didn't expect a group to be waiting on the corner. Normally quite a confident person this was definitely a social situation I had never been in before, so I held back and observed how the other volunteers interacted with the group.
We set up the tables and laid out the food. As it was my first time I was kept behind the table to create a little distance and my job was to hand out juice cartons and water. When handing out the drinks I didn't think most of the people looked overly 'homeless' that was until I saw their hands. Hands tell a lot about a person and the life they have lived. I noticed a guy pouring sugar into his coffee, three dessert spoons of sugar.
Two boys were talking.
"They were giving out free Mullar Rices in Picadilly today."
"Yeah, I had 15 of them, feel well sick."
I think the most impacting part for me was seeing the girls who work the streets. There was a girl who had red hair and looked a little like me. She has just come off heroine after three years. It was so cold and windy under the viaduct and the girls were wearing shorts and boots, there legs were pale and bruised. One girl was so thin, she was shaking and had red marks on her head. Looking at her I felt like she was acting a part in a film, it was hard to believe her situation was real.
Speaking to one man he said it was strange that he could talk to us but he couldn't have a conversation with his wife or children. He said I was cheery :)
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Are you happy?"
"What are you doing tomorrow?"
"Just doing some work, what are you doing tomorrow?"
"Looking for a girlfriend"
During our time a van pulled up and donated boxes and boxes of freshly baked loaves of crusty bread, still warm. We stayed out for about an hour and a half, I really enjoyed the experience and loved reaching out to people who needed help. I learnt a lot and I am excited to go back and get to know more people.
Being in the red light district the leader Tony arranged a lift home for me. I was told that it wouldn't be safe to walk home through the area, especially as people now know my face as being friendly and may take advantage. I think Mustard Tree are a very responsible and reliable charity and I felt totally safe the entire time I was on the soup run.
Come to think of it, we didn't give out soup.
I hope to attend the next soup run on Friday 25th June.
Hands tell the truth.