Welcome to the third instalment of our Campaign #8 interview series! This week, we asked Jen Robus, Deputy Manager of the SMART Prebend Centre, to tell us more about the work she does and how your donations could help SMART’s service users.
At the SMART Prebend Centre, we provide a drop-in service every day (365 days a year) for people who are homeless, or vulnerably housed. People using the centre are able to access clothing, freshly cooked meals (breakfast and lunch daily), emergency food packs, showers, and support to tackle some of the issues they may be facing. We have around 60 people accessing the centre every day, so we are always busy! The people we support may have a number of different issues that have contributed to the situation they have found themselves in, i.e. financial difficulties, relationship breakdowns, and mental health issues to name just a few.
The kind of issues the women accessing our centre are varied. Some of our ladies have multiple needs, which can be, at times, be very complex. Some of the people accessing our support may have fled Domestic Abuse, still be in abusive relationships, have substance misuse issues, have mental health problems, be exploited and have financial difficulties, but this list is by no means exhaustive! Not only do the ladies using our service have some of these difficulties, but also then may well struggle to access adequate food, shelter, weather appropriate clothing, sanitation and all items relating to personal care. Our centre tries to support with some of those longer term problems, but also offers the safe space to eat, shower, and refresh clothing each day in order that some of their basic needs are met.
Sadly, we do not [receive any local or national funding]. Our centre relies heavily on the kindness of our local community to provide almost all items that are donated, and financial donations that contribute to the running of the centre. We are always looking for funding opportunities, to maintain, and extend our provision to Bedford’s community. We are fortunate to have good relationships with local partners, which enables our service users to access lots of different avenues of support.
Due to the circumstances our service users are in, periods are always a difficult time! Some of our ladies are rough sleeping, and have little or no access to toilet facilities regularly. This can be very embarrassing, in a situation where many people already feel ashamed and stigmatised. Within the centre, we keep a stock of sanitary products for women to be able to use, and take as they need. As the centre provides aspects of more basic care, my experience of discussing periods whilst working in the centre is on the whole, thankfully, very positive. We have sanitary products in the toilet areas for women to use as needed, and also a stock for them to be able to take away in a couple of different places around the centre (one place more discreet, and one alongside our other toiletries to take away).
As we rely so heavily on donations from members of the public, we often find that many people will donate items of food, and other toiletries like shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste etc. What we receive less of, is a variety of modern sanitary products for our ladies. We do get some very kindly donated, but we always have quite a limited supply of these items to allow for women with different preferences of product & need for their cycle.
We are absolutely delighted to be offered support from [A Bloody Good Cause], and know this will benefit the women accessing the centre greatly.
If you would like to donate sanitary products to the SMART Prebend Centre through our campaign, you can find out how to do so on our donations page.
Thanks for reading,