A FOOD bank in Llanelli has appealed for members of the public to donate much-needed supplies, at a time when concerns have been raised about the levels of homelessness in the town.
The Herald recently visited the Llanelli Food Bank in Myrtle House to meet with local coordinator Claire Childs and local councillors Fozia Akhta and Sara Griffiths, who are concerned with the staggering cases of people in need of supplies.
Llanelli Food Bank opened in 2011 and has been an invaluable asset to the local community. It is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am-1pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm. The food bank is always in need of donations, and members of the general public who are willing and able are urged to donate tins, dry food, cartons, toiletries, and nappies, which are an urgently sought after item.
Eligible individuals with food tokens are able to use the service up to three times within a six-month period, and the number of visitors is increasing in the run-up to the festive period.
All the ladies share a passion for helping the homeless community. This is at a crucial time when many other food banks are currently unable to supply stock.
Claire Childs, Co-Ordinator at Llanelli Food Bank said that they would be open on an on-call basis over the Christmas period.
“All other agencies are closed so we’re on-call so to speak for anyone that’s referred to us, we’ll help them straight away,” she added.
“There are local Housing Charities involved, Social working teams, doctor’s surgeries, Mind, Age Concern, Citizen’s Advice, to name but a few. These are agencies that can support others in their time of need through vouchers so they can have direct access to us. We ask for people to be referred so they’ve got the continued agency support that they need, it’s vital.
“We can supply three to four days of food during three visits spread over six months which works out at around three to four meals per day. It’s not just tins that we supply, it’s also snacks, tea, coffee and milk. If they need long-term support, their caseworker can assess that need and we’ll try to help. Usually, after a week and a half, lots are out of their rut as a result of help,” she added.
“We are always looking for food that can be kept at room temperature such as tins, pasta, rice, and cereal. UHT milk and fruit juice are sought after, they don’t require refrigeration until open, and a lot of our clients don’t have fridges and freezers.
“Our focus is mainly on food, but we are always thankful for items such as nappies, wet wipes, sanitary products, toilet roll and any other toiletries. When we have, we give.
“We’ve had Harvest stock in from local schools and churches. We’re currently quite buoyant but we fly through stock, a couple of tonnes of food per month. The Gallery Art & Coffee Shop and Myrtle House (during office hours) also take donations. There is also a donation bin in Tesco in Llanelli that we empty at least once a week. At least a third of our clients are babies.
“We help in areas from Loughor to Kidwelly and from Llanelli to Pontyberem and Carway. We sometimes deal with people further up, it just depends on circumstances. Sometimes the support workers will come to us to fetch the products.
“We have 10-15 volunteers here at the food bank. We have carers and volunteers who come from Coleshill who are wonderful to work alongside, they’re pleasant and fun. We value them.”
Cllr Fozia Akhtar told us that her niece, a paramedic, saw the issue of homelessness in the area ‘all too often’
“A homeless man was sleeping outside West Wales General Hospital recently, the police were called to remove him and he had nowhere to go. The homeless aren’t even allowed to stay outside buildings anymore,” she added.
“The Ambulance isn’t insured to take the homeless anywhere and they see a lot of this. The man was removed in a riot van, how sad is this? My niece saw this. Where are these people meant to go? This man was tucked away in a corner of a hospital and there was just no help available.”
Cllr Akhtar added that the space available at Myrtle House could only house a moderate supply of stock.
“Ideally if anyone has any larger premises or a spare unit that they’re willing to donate free to Claire to use, it would be wonderful, it’s for a good cause,” she added.
“There are always dreams of being able to do more and the option of relocating would be something to consider possibly. It’s all about helping the community and we’re passionate to help everyone. We want everyone to support Claire in Llanelli and the Carmarthenshire area.”
Cllr Sara Griffiths said: “There are more homeless people around than we actually realise. It’s also a concern for people who live in rural areas and might not get to see others. A lot of work needs to be done.
“We have a couple of projects going where we’d like to do a lot more fundraising. There is so much poverty which is being dismissed in a sense, people don’t realise how many are suffering, it’s heart-breaking to see. If there are any local businesses that are willing to donate to us as local councillors then we are on the council website, we’d genuinely appreciate it.
“We don’t want anyone to fall through the gaps, it’s not just adults who are suffering, it’s the elderly and children and babies.”
On Thursday (Nov 16) there will be a community collection throughout Llanelli and Carmarthenshire at Myrtle House from 10am-1pm and 5:30pm-8:30pm. There is also a national collection by the Trussell Trust, a national organisation that runs over 400 food banks.
There will also be a massive collection during the first week of December in Tesco Llanelli for three days, where the supermarket has offered to add 20% to every pound-worth of food donated.
Victim speaks out about the impact knifepoint robbery
THE VICTIM of a knifepoint robbery has spoken out about the impact the incident has had on his life as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in a national knife amnesty aiming to get weapons off the streets.
The 24-year-old was approached by a man he didn’t know while walking his dog in Carmarthen on July 20 this year. A knife was held to his chest, and he was forced to hand over the money in his wallet.
His attacker, Teifion Lewis, of Llammas Street, Carmarthen, was arrested and charged with robbery within four days, and was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
Looking back at the incident, the victim, who has asked to remain anonymous, said: “At first, I didn’t realise he had a knife on him. I just assumed he was another man who was out partying, given he was young and it was late on a Friday night.
“Even when he was right in front of me with his hand on my chest, I assumed he must have had too much to drink and just stumbled into me. Once I saw he was brandishing a knife, though, that changed everything. It was at that moment that I realised I was in far more danger than I’d first thought.
“I suppose the only real thing that was going through my mind at the time was to talk to him, do as he says, and get out of there as soon as possible without becoming hysterical. I just had to keep as calm as possible for the time he was blocking my route.”
He explained that it was only when Lewis had taken his money and walked away, that he realised what could have happened had things gone wrong.
“I thought about how easily he could have stabbed me and I’d have been left out in an empty street, cold and alone, bleeding to death, without even a mobile phone on me to call my friends and family to tell them I love them,” he said.
“I’ve never given much thought as to what my inevitable death will be like, but I’d never have thought it could have ended that way.”
The victim had walked his dog every night for two years – using this particular route for seven months – with no issue. Since being robbed, he has become wary of going out at night and hasn’t been able to walk down the lane where he was stopped without suffering flashbacks.
“It’s not necessarily the whole event that comes back to me, but different parts, such as when he started to sob to me about his home life, or when he apologised for ‘having to mug me’,” he said.
“By far, what’s stuck with me the most are the words said to me as I was being mugged. The words ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ have been repeating in my mind every day since then, without failure.”
On September 2, at Swansea Crown Court, Teifion Lewis was sentenced for robbery and possessing a knife in a public place. The victim read out a statement directly addressing Lewis, urging him to get his life back on track and forgiving him for what he did.
“You asked me that night to forget that the robbery had ever happened,” he read. “My assumption is because you were fearful as for what might subsequently happen to you. I’m afraid though, that the image of a knife being flicked towards my chest, and the phrase ‘I want your money, I don’t want your life’ is something I will never be able to erase from my mind, no matter how much I wish for it to go.
“I want you, however, to improve. I want you to use your punishment as your wake-up call, and as a doorway to improving both your future and the future of those who you are close to. There is help available for you, even in prison, and even when it seems all hope is lost. If I can get my life back on track after my autism diagnosis, so can you.
“You’re young, you’re able bodied, and you still have time. Use it wisely. I can’t forget what you did, but just this once I will forgive you.”
The victim has spoken out about his experience as Dyfed-Powys Police takes part in Operation Sceptre – a national week of action aimed at cracking down on the illegal possession of knives. A knife amnesty is taking place during the week (Sept 18-24), with people able to bin their knives at specific locations across the force no questions asked.
The 24-year-old has backed the operation, and the chance to get knives out of our communities.
“I’d prefer it if these people who carry knives with them be honest about who they are and why they have them on their person,” he said. “But it’s much more important that it’s an opportunity to get these weapons off the street.
“If the ability to do this anonymously is what gives these people the confidence to rid themselves of their weapons, then so be it.”
Police cracking down on unauthorised parking in Nott Square
A POLICE crackdown on unauthorised parking in Carmarthen’s Old Town has been welcomed by local businesses.
As The Herald has previously reported, there have been issues with drivers parking in Nott Square for decades, and new Chair of the town’s Chamber of Commerce Nathan Carroll recently wrote to the Leader of CCC to discuss the matter.
While solutions have been trialled in the past, including placing large planters in an attempt to deter illegal parking, they have met with limited degrees of success.
However, on Thursday (Sept 13) police officers began issuing drivers with £30 fixed penalty notices, with six cars ticketed on the first day.
All vehicles parked in the areas and not unloading goods will face a £30 fine for parking in a pedestrianised area.
Inspector Dominic Jones said: “We would ask that members of the public and business owners do not park in Nott Square. This could cause an obstruction and delay emergency vehicles from attending incidents in the town centre. Police officers are actively patrolling the area and will ticket cars or ask drivers to move on.”
The power to book or move vehicles parked in this area currently lies with Dyfed-Powys Police, but an application has been made to the Welsh Government for Carmarthenshire Council to be given this authority.
Mr Carroll said that traders he had spoken to welcomed the police presence. “When they are there to clear it, it’s been very good. They have been moving vehicles on, which is great,” he commented.
“There are still a few issues, but all in all things have improved.
However, he added that traders would like to see a permanent solution, like a removable bollard to allow access for deliveries.
“It’s not perfect, there is still a long way to go – obviously police don’t have the resources to stop every car there,” he remarked, pointing out that the parking problems had been on the Chamber of Commerce agenda for around four decades worth of meetings.
“However, it seems that the latest actions have been positive – and we are hopefully moving to a stage where we don’t have to discuss it anymore,” he added. “We want Nott Square to be more pedestrian-friendly.”
County councillors for the ward Alun Lenny and Gareth John explained that they were ‘very aware’ of the ‘chaotic situation in the town’s two main squares’.
“Only delivery vehicles are allowed to enter Nott Square from the King Street direction, and the constant stream of cars who ignore the road traffic sign outside the Nat West bank are committing a moving traffic offence,” Cllr John explained.
“However, vehicles with business in Quay Street are allowed to exit via the square and Queen Street. Parked cars are an obstruction to visibility of moving traffic and a clear hazard to children, in particular. Unfortunately, council Enforcement Officers (Traffic Wardens) don’t have the powers at present to issue fixed penalty notices to these motorists.
“Guildhall Square only has one entrance/exit – being at the top of Blue Street. Signs also clearly show that vehicles are only allowed to enter the square to unload. Cars parked in the Square have therefore already committed an offence.”
Noting that they had been ‘pressing hard’ for a legal solution to the situation, Cllr Lenny added that a meeting had been held on Monday (Sept 17) convened by Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths and Chaired by Town Mayor Cllr Emlyn Schiavone, with the police and senior Town and County Council officials.
“The County Council has prepared a legal case requesting that its Enforcement Officers should be empowered to issue penalty notices (i.e. parking tickets) to cars parked on both squares. This has to be approved by Welsh Government. We expect a reply this autumn,” he added.
“The County Council will also use a mobile camera, using numberplate recognition technology, to identify illegally parked cars. This will also be used on other sites in the county.
“In the meantime, the police have been warning motorists in the first instance, and are now issuing £50 fixed penalties. This is done with regret, but it does penalise motorists who’ve broken the law. We’re also pleased that Police Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has arranged for a police office to be opened in Hall Street, which joins the two squares. This means that police officers and PCSOs will be ‘on the ground’ to monitor the situation.
“This has been a long running sore and a source of frustration for us as local members. Planters were placed on Nott Square to deter inconsiderate parking. Unfortunately, they were the target of vandalism. We sincerely hope that the Welsh Government grants the delegated powers as soon as possible so that this dangerous and unsightly problem can be firmly dealt with.”
Break in at old police station
FOLLOWING a break-in at the former Friar’s Park police station, officers found a plethora of items from an antique police bicycle to riot gear in a Carmarthen flat.
Magistrates sitting in Llanelli on Thursday (Sept 13) heard that on July 27 this year police discovered there had been a burglary at the station, which was no longer in use.
A ‘large amount’ of equipment was found to be missing, which was traced to a property on Union Street, where 39-year-old Andrew Scholfield lived.
Scholfield, who gave his nationality as ‘Terran’, pleaded guilty to a charge of handling stolen goods.
Prosecuting, Julie Sullivan explained that officers ‘acting on information received’ attended Scholfield’s home. He was not there, but another resident let the officers in and told them that he had seen Scholfield and another man in the communal room with a trench coat and police helmet.
An array of police equipment and memorabilia was found in the room, including uniforms, riot shields, old photographs, operation reports, a hand-held radar, a scene of crime investigation kit, an old first aid kit, a laptop, a miniature ornamental police helmet, a bicycle, and a radiation detector.
The officers obtained a warrant for Scholfield’s bedroom, and found even more equipment, including hats, helmets, police books, epaulettes and a gas mask.
A statement from the handyperson who worked at Friar’s Park indicated that the items had been taken from all over the building, including the former police museum.
Scholfield was arrested and made no comment in a police interview. The court heard that he was currently subject to a community order for harassment.
Ms Sullivan told magistrates that no valuation for the stolen materials had been provided by Dyfed-Powys Police, which made it ‘a bit difficult to assess’ the level of harm caused. However, she estimated that the goods would be valued at between one and ten thousand pounds.
Scholfield’s solicitor Grayson Tanner said that his client suffered with mental health issues including stress and PTSD.
Following a report from the probation service, Scholfield was sentenced to four months of electronically monitored curfew between 9pm and 7am and ordered to pay costs of £85 and an £85 victim surcharge.
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