Share Your Experience With Us!

As you might have heard, we are turning our WordPress into the space for you to share your experience with Hot Chocolate Society and beyond it. We want you to submit your stories from past where you engaged with rough sleepers; your highlights from the outreach sessions; and any thoughts and ideas you might have in relation to the issue of homelessness.

To submit your piece, send us an email to kclhotchocsoc@gmail.com. 

We would love to hear from you!

High IQs, “Old and New Louise” and West End Shows

Dirty? Scary? Lazy? Junkie? Beggar? Tramp? ‘Ignore them.’ ‘Don’t make eye contact’.

Admittedly, before I went on my first outreach session from the Strand several weeks ago, some of the above words and phrases were ringing through my head because I had not experienced first-hand what it was like to speak with a rough sleeper. One hour later, and my perspective had changed entirely.

Normal. Genuine. Thankful. Funny. Kind. Selfless. Homeless.

As well as being highly rewarding and satisfying, this outreach session was an extremely eye-opening and valuable experience.

The most memorable conversation I had was with four other girls and a rough sleeper called Gleynn, who had found shelter from the rain half way down the Strand. Although we only chatted to him for half an hour, I learnt so much about his life and his experiences…he was funny too! He told us all about his relationship with ‘New Louise’ (‘Old Louise’ was his last girlfriend!) and even acted as an Agony Aunt for those of us seeking relationship advice!

The best thing about talking to Gleynn was that he didn’t dwell on anything. Something he said which really stuck with me was ‘Sh*t happens’. Our conversations about West End shows, high IQ’s, and girlfriends were interesting but for me, this was the most important thing he said to us. It made me realise one of the facts about rough sleepers which I was ignorant to for so long; that they don’t choose to be homeless.

In my opinion, this stands as the strongest reason why nobody should treat rough sleepers any differently to the other 8.6 million people they share the streets of London with. As Ellie Goulding so articulately summarised in her condemnation of the treatment of rough sleepers “there are 7,000 people on the streets every year in London and for a city that’s thriving, that’s shameful.”

I would strongly urge you all to go on an outreach session, even if it is something you initially feel anxious about. For me, it reminded me to be far more grateful for everything that I have been blessed with in life, and I’m certain it would remind you too.

Credits to Phoebe Chapman

Great Success at the Fresher’s Fair and Exciting Opportunities that 2015/16 holds!

We welcome all the new new students of KCL and returning ones! Now, after hectic but amusing days of Fresher’s Fair have come to an end, we would like to thank all of you who came to see our stall in Barbican and showed interest in our society by signing up to the emailing list. We are happy to announce that in this couple of days we’ve got over 500 sign ups, which is a very promising start for the upcoming academic year.

Our Fresher's Stall!

Our Fresher’s Stall

We will do our best to fulfil your expectations and make this year remarkable for our society. Though we will update you about all the important dates via email and our Facebook page want to warn you that in couple of weeks we will be having out first social event of the year, which will be a great opportunity to get to know more about the Hot Chocolate Society and what we do and meet new people who share the same interest as you do. Also, our first outreach sessions will follow where you can get a brand new experience ( which might the case for many of you) of approaching rough sleepers and stepping out of your comfort zone, which, I promise, will be very rewarding. In the end, university is about trying new things, isn’t it?

Also, with the new committee we will try to keep our social media platforms such as WordPress and Twitter frequently updated with our own experiences,stories, global news, as well as relevant events that might be of interest for you.

Stay tuned for the upcoming events and updates, enjoy the rest of your fresher’s week and we all can’t wait to meet new enthusiastic members of our society!

P.S. Don’t forget to sign up to our society on the KCLSU website- your support is very appreciated and membership is absolutely free!

Homelessness – What we can do about it?

We were very lucky to have Beki & Sonja from The Connection to speak with us on the complex issues surrounding homelessness, and how we can lend a helping hand, as well as to understand the complexity of it. It is important to adress that supplying a roof over their head is not the main solution for homelessness, but to tackle and address the homeless’s complex needs to help be on that journey to live an independent life. Check out The Connection’s website to learn more about how you can help.

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The small acts of kindness we can give to those in need are not forgotten

Reading the reflection penned by a HCS member after speaking to a suicidal homeless man, I wanted to try to help him, even if I could only offer some company. The temperature had fallen below freezing and London was bitterly cold – the thought of being exposed to the elements in this sort of weather, with nowhere to shelter, was unbearable.

Lemuel was huddled underneath the Charing Cross station underpass, along with two other men. Beaming, he appeared to be enjoying a joke with his friends, and his face lit up when I asked his name and offered some tea. The light hearted mood soon disappeared when his friend, Jerry, told me the story of how Lemuel came to live on the streets. Born in Senegal, he had lost his entire family to war. Seeking a means of escape,Lemuel found a job in a kitchen in the UK, and saved for a year to afford his travel here, only to be told that the job had now been given to someone else. With no money and no job, he had nowhere to go but the streets. As Jerry spoke, Lemuel became overcome with emotion, tears streaming down his cheeks until he had to walk off to be alone.

The struggles the men faced on the streets were varied and ongoing. Earlier that day, a drunk man had smashed a bottle at their feet, shouting racist abuse at Lemuel in front of passers by. A fight had erupted, ending in police involvement. Pointing at the CCTV camera above them, Jerry described how it made them feel safer, yet did not prevent attacks and violence from occurring. Someone had also stolen Jerry’s gloves the previous night – a minor annoyance for someone not living on the streets, but a kick in the teeth to a person trying to fend off hypothermia. As I sat beside them, Jerry described how he too had been made homeless following the loss of his job. Every possible thing had been stolen from him, including his passport, money, and debit card. A British national, he had lived and worked outside the UK for a number of years, and was classed as an expat as a result. Because of this, he was unable to receive welfare, and too old to work. If these men were cynical about life, I thought, they had every right to be.

Walking back down the Strand, I passed the grand Savoy Hotel. It seemed cruelly paradoxical that just a few metres away from those enjoying its affluence were the men I had left, who had nothing. In the same city, on the same street, their lives were worlds apart. In one of the world’s richest cities, how could we let this happen?

Despite a lingering feeling of hopelessness about not being able to help Jerry, Lemuel and John, one positive thing stuck in my mind. When I had introduced myself, I asked whether they had encountered anyone from the Hot Chocolate Society. “Yes”, replied Jerry, “And thank god for them”. Although, as a small society, we might feel powerless to really help homeless people on our own, we should remember this: the small acts of kindness we can give to those in need are not forgotten.

Written by:  Helen Stanford

Reflections from an outreach session

On Tuesday night, Li Fang, Yasmin, Woon Yee and I walked down Strand for our outreach session. We all agreed it was a good session as the conversations we shared with many of them were so real, so vulnerable and inspiring.

One of the more memorable conversations we had was with a man we met in the underground at Charing Cross Station. He was with another man who appeared to have been talking to him for some time. As we offered him hot chocolate and some snacks, he was visibly happy. We squatted in front of him to listen to his story, occasionally through the other man’s translations as he apologised for not speaking English so well. His eyes started welling up in tears as he shared about the struggles he had gone through trying to seek help from day centres but not receiving any; and scrambling to wipe away the tears falling down his cheeks, he told us how it was tough having been homeless for some time now and that he did not want to live like this anymore, wishing to end his life at that moment. He also talked about the nasty people he had met while being homeless. The emotions he shared were so real and so honest.

Many times in our conversation, he told us how grateful he was that we were there. “Thank you, sister, thank you.”, he repeated multiple times as he reached out both of his hands to shake ours, eyes beaming with gratitude. There were light-hearted moments too, as we shared jokes and laughed together. Towards the end, we could feel his spirits lifted from when we first talked to him. The other man with him shared that he had been here to visit him the past few weeks, and he had been in a bad condition as he was feeling depressed. He told us that if people like us and himself were not there to give him some love, it was difficult to say what he would have done to himself. This love we shared could keep him going for a while longer.

Indeed, seeing the homeless on the streets and thinking we do not have the ability to help them, sometimes it is easy to forget that they too are humans and other than physical needs, they have emotional needs as well. Being surrounded by so many people walking past yet still being ignored, mistreated and alone can feel terrible. Just having conversations with some of them showed me how human they are, equally capable of love, gratitude and giving. As we offered a lady we met some hot chocolate, she politely declined, saying “I’m fine, thank you. I think John over there will have some.” Some others we saw shared their food with their homeless friends, and sometimes even offered us the food. Physically they may be poor, but their hearts are still rich with compassion.

That night, I learnt that what we can give from inside the heart matters so much more than what we can give from the pocket. It is true that many of us are constrained physically by what we can give, but as long as we give with a genuine heart, I believe those receiving it can feel the love, and that little love can go a long way.

Written by Anita Chan

24 Hours Sleep Out

I think the key part of this is that homelessness isn’t just about rough sleeping, there’s also this element that the day is very long and if I were or he were just by ourselves, the day is terribly long to just do nothing in. Especially when nothing is said, you just watch people passing you by, not giving you any money. Hungry, lonely and rough sleeping as a part of it as well.

On the 7th of November, two of our brave volunteers Matt and James participated in King’s Hot Choc Soc’s 24 Hours Sleep Out event. In this video interview, Matt and James shared their experience of being on the streets for 24 hours.

Video Credit: Carolina Desz

Finding a job when you’re homeless

Katherine, Bryan, Camille and I had a really good outreach session on the Strand tonight. We met 28 year old Harry who became a rough sleeper after his release from prison, and talked a bit about how he might possibly get out of his current situation. One of the things we touched on was employability. Without an official address, a photo ID and resources to job hunt etc, finding a job is a really difficult endeavour for many rough sleepers like him. This article sums up some of the difficulties homeless people face in job searching: http://kylyssa.hubpages.com/…/why-homeless-people-dont-just…

Here’s some info that you can share with the rough sleepers you meet, if appropriate: http://www.mungosbroadway.org.uk/…/employment_and_training_…

St Mungo’s has really great employability programmes teaching skills like gardening, painting and decorating etc (see the orange sidebar on the left of the page). Also, this is a really useful place to learn about homelessness and homeless rights and services: http://england.shelter.org.uk/…/homele…/whats_your_situation

We’ll be following up with Harry on the job search endeavour and will share any updates (:

Welcome, new volunteers! (:

We had a really encouraging response at Freshers Fair and at our introductory session on the 25th Sep, and hope that everyone is excited to get involved. Please bear with us as we sort out a schedule for the outreach sessions and arrange meetings for the fundraising and awareness projects, we will be sending emails as soon as we sort all these out.

For those who were unable to attend the Introductory session on the 25th Sep, here (HCS Introductory Session) are the slides we showed that contains a safety briefing of what to look out for when going on the outreach sessions, as well as an overview of our fundraising and awareness events during the last academic year. If you haven’t already contacted us, please drop us an email at kclhotchocsoc@gmail.com indicating whether you’re interested in the outreach sessions, fundraising and/or awareness, as well as your available evenings for the outreach sessions.

Also, if everyone can register their membership on KCLSU (http://www.kclsu.org/organisation/9041/) that would be extremely helpful (: It’s a free membership so PLEASE register!

Looking forward to working with all of you. Once again, thanks so much for all your enthusiasm and patience!

XX

HCS Committee 2014/2015

Archie, Waterloo Bridge


archie

One of the homeless guys on the street we spoke to tonight was Archie. If you always walk across the Waterloo Bridge, you most certainly would have past him. He was sitting there in the morning when I walked across, and still there at 930pm.

Here are snippets of the long and interesting conversation we had with him:

“You know so many of this people are so ignorant. They walk past and start taking out their phones, pretending to be calling someone, or turn the other way or just stare at me and don’t even say ‘sorry no’ when I ask for change. Of a thousand people who walk past, when one person stops and talks to me, you know, it restores my belief in humanity, you know, that people have that humanity in them.”

“If I’m being honest, don’t buy me sandwiches. Crisps, juice, hot drinks, chocolate…ahh yes chocolate would be fantastic, those would be good. Sleeping bags, hoodies, anything warm, anything will always be useful.”

It really doesn’t take much to smile, say good morning/evening, or stop and ask a simple ‘How’re you doing?’. So next time you walk past, consider what kindness you can give; it isn’t always money they’re most looking for. 

Also, Archie needs new trainers UK Size 7, please contact us if you have a pair to donate! And he loves reading, you’ll see him reading on the bridge in the day (he is currently reading The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo!) and he welcomes books of any genre. He also loves white and milk chocolate, especially Yorkies. (:

Written by: Li Fang Teo