I think I should tell you all a little more about what we do, who we are and why we exist. Bear with me, I am me so this might get convoluted but I assure you that it is worth it. Think of it like a journey with a few too many stops but a joyous destination.
Last week’s Souper Saturday was the best one yet, the place was buzzing with positive atmosphere and we have our guests and our volunteers to thank for that. They really do show the best side of humanity on a regular basis.
I don’t normally like to pinpoint individual guests, but this one was a belter! He started his visit by engaging in some rather cheeky banter with his host: pointing out that I might want to get hold of a wee pinny to compliment my porridge-cooking duties. After reminding him that I have control over the ban-hammer we settled into a wee conversation about our university experiences.
It later transpired this he is an extremely accomplished close-up magician and he was soon making staff and guests alike gasp at his skill. Variations on the phrase “I tried to see how you did that but I still have no idea” were floating around the room with great regularity.
This chap isn’t the first extremely talented individual who has crossed our threshold either — we have been blessed with many amazingly bright and skilled people since we opened just a short time ago and our volunteers are always enthused by the fact that Edinburgh’s homeless community is full of humour and intelligence. It makes me sad to see the wasted talent that we welcome every week, but it also keeps me enthusiastic and excited to get up at 7am on a Saturday knowing that there is a small chance that I can help some of them in some small way.
We had pizza too!
Last week I did some market research among the guests focussing on ways in which the service could be improved and it turns out that ubiquity issues lead to soup testing weakly with Edinburgh’s homeless community. So I decided to try some new dishes, namely toasties and pizza. Turns out that people rather like toasties and pizza — who knew..!
This week I’m going to get some square sausage and do some stovies. People like stovies too, right?
The recent decision to move towards souplessness has obviously left us with a wee naming dilemma. Souper Saturday has a sort of legacy charm I suppose, but I have decided to find a new name to match our hope to concentrate on a more socially focussed outlook with the hope that we can encourage other services used by our guests to come along and be interrogated and educated by them, because it is about time that the homeless and vulnerably housed of Edinburgh were able to put their views to the services that are paid to cater for their needs, after all the services get to put their side of it all the damn time!
I appreciate the help that has been given so far, I honestly do; it has been amazing — Volunteers John and Lorna have been travelling over from Fife for two weeks in a row and have helped immensely not only in a practical sense: by making tea/coffee; washing up; bringing delicious cakes (cakes!) and keeping my spirits up, but they have engaged socially with the guests as equals and that is a key aspect to what we hope to do. Homeless and vulnerably housed people do not suddenly become idiots to be patronised, they are people pure and simple and they deserve to be treated as such, with dignity and respect. Having said that, we need more. We need money, we need board games, we need ideas, we need volunteers and most of all, we need moral support!
Which brings me to The Church of St John and Sunday Assembly. One is a Christian Church and the other is a Godless Congregation. Both are full of great support and I’d be lost without them. I think that it is essential to the ethos of the service that it is open to help from as well as to serve all aspects of society and I am delighted that these two generous organisations are helping in their own ways.
As you no doubt know, St John’s (@Churchofstjohn) very generously provide the space and they also provide so much more in terms of encouragement and basic human kindness. The staff are among the most wonderful people it has been my pleasure to meet and they have helped me as an individual and the service as a, well, service, immeasurably, from, as mentioned, providing the space, to giving us the wherewithal to engage with the Roma beggars, to giving us porridge, to staying behind (without pay) a little bit longer so that our guests can fully take advantage of each other’s company to providing encouragement. I cannot thank them enough.
Sunday Assembly (@SunAssemblyEdin) are a newer addition to the family and they are providing an opportunity to spread the word and they are making an appeal for food donations to help stretch our meagre budget that little bit further. One of the guests and I will be addressing their meeting on the 23rd of February, so please try to get along if you can — there is free cake (cake!), but try not to scoff too much because the leftovers are, again generously, donated to The Big Issue office on Queensferry Street here in Edinburgh (@TBIEdinburgh).
All of this is summarised by one individual who highlights the beauty of what we do: some weeks he is a volunteer and others he is a guest, but he always arrives with the same happy attitude and positive outlook. He is full of great stories, has many puzzling conundrums for us to ponder and is always ready with a contribution to other people’s conversation topics. He is both a cherished guest and a hard-working volunteer depending on his circumstances. It is a fine line, and almost all of us are very few steps away from sleeping on the streets.
Please take a moment to read our Indiegogo page and consider a wee donation. Every little helps, and I can assure you that I will do my very best to make sure that every penny goes as far as possible towards helping our guests.