Before you go
Don’t do any of this if you have coronavirus symptoms: fever, new persistent cough, loss of sense of taste/smell.
Always go out with at least one other person. This is not a solo activity!
Bring a mobile phone, mask and bike lights. There are spare lights on the shelving next to the blue paper rolls, and spare masks with the toiletries.
When you’re out
Ask people to get in a queue so that you’re only dealing with one person at a time. If more than one person comes up to you, be assertive: “I can only cope with one person at a time. Please get in a queue, and then I’ll get started”. If someone “just wants one thing” while you are serving someone else, ask them to wait until you are finished with the first person.
For health reasons, YOU hand the food to people: they do not root around the food and take stuff.
Try to remember people’s names and do tell them your name: they really appreciate the contact.
BUT tell people only your first name: not your phone number, where you live/work, your surname etc… We haven’t had any stalkers yet, but just in case. If they ask, be vague “I live in East Oxford, I work in education”.
If you are at all uncomfortable with a situation, just take yourself and the bike away. If someone is unpleasant, their mates will probably try to calm them down. Talk to the mates and tell them that you’ll be back later.
If you tell someone that you’ll do something (like come back later), please do it. People experiencing homelessness have had lots of people let them down in all kinds of ways. Let’s not add to that.
Anything that someone says to you is confidential EXCEPT if they say that they will harm themselves or others. In that case, phone Riki immediately on 07759 135811 (add me to your contacts), pass the phone to the person so I can talk to them, and do not leave until the matter has been addressed. And/or ring 999.
Please stick together. We provide food to EVERYONE who asks for it (even if they don’t look like they really need it). If one volunteer knows of someone who needs food, the whole team goes.
If you find someone who is passed out/sick/etc.: part of our job is making sure that people are OK and ringing an ambulance if necessary. Two of our volunteers have definitely already saved one person’s life just by doing that. We always carry a first aid kit in the pannier with the fruit.
Once someone has taken something, they cannot give it back to you. No trading stuff between parcels e.g. “I don’t like Coke, have you got a Pepsi instead”.
Do not give out anything that is not on the bikes, e.g. if someone asks for a cup of tea. Do not give money, including when you are not volunteering. But if someone asks for something that we do not have, let Riki know and we’ll try to get it out on the next round. This does not apply to booze or drugs 🙂
Only one goody bag per person, except for Ian who is with Kelly in the wheelchair. No bags for invisible ‘friends’ who ‘will be by in a minute’ etc.
Unless there is loads of food, feel free to limit the amount that each person can have, e.g. “I’m afraid that I only have enough for two tins per person today. I’ll read out everything that I have and you can choose the two things you want.”
Be consistent: if one person can only have two tins, the next person can’t have three. Fairness is a big deal for people experiencing homelessness. (You’ll also be charmed by how polite and sweet they often are to each other).
Do not feel bad about saying no! We are performing a much-needed and much-appreciated service, and people are used to these rules.
If anyone is rude to you, please don’t take it personally. It is probably the booze or drugs talking, and the person will be really apologetic the next time they see you.
If something traumatic happens (like finding someone in a really bad state, or realising that you can’t do much for someone with severe problems) please let Riki know so she can pass on information to other services if appropriate. Also talk it over with the other volunteers. You’re doing something wonderful, but it’s a difficult environment. We want you to enjoy volunteering, and not to go home unhappy.
At the end of the run
If there is food left over, please try to find homes for the non-perishables (fruit, bread etc.) – and feel free to take it home yourself. Please bring any non-perishables, including spare goodie bags, back to the Green Box.
Return the backpacks, urns and panniers to the Green Box since they will be needed in a couple of days.
Mental health information
Homelessness and mental health go hand in hand: having a mental health problem can create the circumstances which can cause a person to become homeless, and poor housing and homelessness can increase the chances of developing a mental health problem or exacerbate an existing problem. Roughly 80% of homeless people report that they have mental health issues, and about 45% have been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Botley Bikers cannot do much about this, but…
- We need to keep ourselves safe, including decompressing (by talking to another Biker or a specialist service) after we have had to deal with something difficult.
- The best we can usually do if we feel that someone is suffering and NOT at immediate risk is to signpost them to Luther Street Medical Centre (specialist GP centre for homeless people located off Speedwell Street), and possibly offer to ring to make an appointment there and/or meet them there and go in with them.
- If people pose an immediate risk to themselves or others, ring 999. This does not include a general ‘oh life is so terrible I’m going to kill myself’, in which case we should gently find out whether they have a specific plan and the means to carry it out (‘I’m going to take an overdose and here are the pills’). If they do have a plan and the means, ring 999.
- We CANNOT promise to not tell anyone else about stuff they tell us. We CAN promise to not tell unless they pose a risk to themselves or others.
- Everything we do should be with their consent, or at least keeping them fully informed of what we are doing (‘Are you happy for me to ring the GP?’, ‘I am having to ring 999 because…’)
- And finally… we are doing a brilliant job already, helping people’s mental as well as physical wellbeing, just by bringing them food, toiletries and good cheer.
Luther Street Medical Centre, Luther St. OX1 2DU, 01865 901571. New referrals Mon-Fri 9-10:30, and once registered there are drop-in appointments 9:00-12:30.
Cruse bereavement support 808 808 1677