Homelessness in Bournemouth is something most of us witness on a daily basis but often don’t get the chance to do much about aside from handing over a bit of spare change. That was much the same for me too until last week when I decided to do something worthwhile and volunteer at the BH1 open house project in Boscombe.
I left my flat with a thermos full of coffee and a heart full of trepidation and made my way to Boscombe on what seemed like a particularly chilly Thursday morning. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I first arrived at 10am outside a converted town house overlooking the Salvation Army but I knew I was in for a busy day.
Upon arrival I was introduced to Len Doyle, the community work manager for the project who showed me around. The social area was a cosy blue room that housed a few large, leather sofas, two computers and a breakfast counter which doubled up as a reception desk and drinks counter. Upstairs had a tv room, shower facilities and pool room for the guests to use but luckily for everyone else, I’d be too preoccupied with my volunteering duties to show anyone up with my impeccable skills.
As the guests poured in with friendly faces cheery morning welcomes, my apprehensiveness soon began to fade. All of a sudden, the main room was filled with accents and voices from far and wide – most of them asking for tea and coffee.
Now it was time for me to put my hands to work; the small downstairs kitchen is where I was to spend most of my time spooning out tea, coffee and sugar to serve to all the thirsty guests. After a few spillages and misheard orders I finally began to get into the swing of things and truly hone my my hidden waitressing skills – I was a natural!
Just as the clinks of spoons in mugs began to die down and the smell of food began to fill the air, I was moved onto my next job. This time, I was buttering bread to go with the soup of the day. After buttering several loaves of bread and washing a mountain of mugs it was time to serve the guests.
As I went back into the main room with a tray full of bread and pea and ham soup, a room full of hungry bellies awaited me. Serving food to the guests was great fun, they were all very friendly and approachable and made me feel welcome.
During my soup rounds I got chatting to Dean, a homeless man currently living in Bournemouth and a newbie to the BH1 project. I asked Dean about his personal experiences sleeping rough and the trials and tribulations that come with being on the streets, especially during winter and the christmas period.
Volunteering with the homeless at the BH1 project was a great experience that taught me a lot about what it really means to be homeless and taught me a lot about myself too. Meeting Dean was the highlight of my day. He really helped put a face to the problem of homelessness which many of us are guilty of ignoring – like many of the homeless people themselves.
Overall, volunteering at the BH1 project was both good fun and hard work. By the end of the day I had no energy but what I did have was a great sense of accomplishment and a completely different perspective on homelessness.