Our winter night shelter has opened its door on 1st December through until 31st March each year for the last three years.
Each guest is warmly welcomed and offered a hot drink on arrival by our friendly volunteers. Our volunteers are on hand to chat to them or play games – Cards, Chess and Draughts are always popular, or help them with paperwork and form filling, whilst other volunteers are in the in the kitchen cooking up a hot two-course meal.
Often, talking to the volunteers is the first chance a rough sleeper has had of speaking to someone that day. Life on the streets can be isolating. When we speak to them, we can ascertain what we can best do to help them and signpost them to other agencies.
Rose’s story is just one case study out of 116 unique stories we have had concerning modern day slavery, addiction, mental health issues and family break ups from the guests at our night shelter last year.
Rose is a 30 year old woman from Latvia and came in to the night shelter in early February 2019.
Whilst in conversation with our volunteers, Rose disclosed she would like to go home.
Rose has many complex needs; she had been on heroin since the age of 15. Her brother had died from a heroin overdose and her father had died from alcohol poisoning. Her mother is a recovering alcoholic. Life has been difficult for Rose in many ways.
It came as no surprise that as well as these issues, Rose also had health conditions concerning circulation problems in her hands and abscesses on her body.
This is sadly not uncommon for some of our guests with this kind of addiction.
Rose’s English was fair but some of the conversation was helped on by using google translate, this is a great tool to enable us to talk to guests where English is not their first language.
Rose further disclosed that her passport was being held by the manager of a car wash in return for a loan she had taken out to attend her brother’s funeral. We believed that she was being exploited and reported the matter to the relevant authorities.
Rose needed help to get a methadone prescription, which we were able to sort through the charity; One Recovery. This is a drug and alcohol support agency.
A few weeks later unfortunately Rose lost her methadone prescription and was back on heroin to top up the meth’s she was taking so we supported her to get a new prescription.
We were working with the housing team at Reconnect to get Rose housed and she was working to pay off her passport debt.
We felt we were on our way to helping Rose when out of the blue, Rose got a call from her ex-husband to tell her that he and her mother where wanting to help and get her back home. Rose was a little apprehensive but we assured her we would be there to support her.
Over the following few weeks we saw Rose every evening and helped her with the various tasks that needed doing in order to get her ready for her departure.
Rose‘s ex-husband came to the night shelter to discuss plans; he arranged for her passport to be returned and for the cost of her flight home. We were to help with procuring the methadone prescription for the two weeks’ worth of supply that would be needed before they could get her in to rehabilitation in her home country.
All was set, she was to fly at the end of March at 7am.
Three nights before the flight Rose did not turn up to the shelter, nor the night after so we spent hours looking for her.
We did eventually locate her, she was in a drunken state with a well-known drug addict but promised she would be back that evening; the night before the flight.
True to her word, that evening, she came in and the volunteers had helped to launder some of her clothes so they were nice and clean ready to be packed. At 2.30am Sean, the night shelter co-ordinator, and her ex-husband turned up to take her to the airport.
It was a very tense time but they all managed to keep calm, get to the airport and get her through security with her prescription and her passport which by this point was quite badly damaged but they made it, there was tears when they said their goodbyes and then Sean watched as her plane took off.
Later that day, Sean told how he got one of the best phone calls of his career to tell him that Rose had arrived home safely to her Mum and to thank everyone at the night shelter for all they had done for her.
We think of Rose with a smile and wish her all the luck with her recovery. She is often in our prayers.
If you go to St Paul’s church, you might see a little Rose bush in one of the raised beds, that was her parting gift to us before she left that cold March Morning.
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