Full-time caregiver helping sex workers and sharing meals with people

In the past two years, four out of five people have seen a significant increase in the cost of living.

Since furloughs cut wages by 20%, and benefits were reduced for more than half a million people, low-income people are struggling to make ends meet. Demand for food banks is higher than ever, household borrowing continues to rise, and – above all – gas bills are rising.

Shani Stephens, 55, of Ravenhill, Swansea, has spent most of her adult life in community and outreach work, but since the start of the pandemic, she has expanded her efforts toward helping those who run community food shares. Struggling to eat through. Assignment or Project.

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Shani Ty is the founder of Forest Resource Hub – a small independent charity organization that specializes in outreach. That is also a full-time career for her adult son, who suffers from psychosis following a childhood brain injury.

When she is not caring for her son, she spends her time in and around Swansea, making sure no one goes hungry.

She said: “I’ve been involved in community work for 25 years, but I started Ty Forest Resource Hub two years ago in the first lockdown. People were really, really struggling – some didn’t have money to eat were paid 80% of furlough wages, but for those who were already on low incomes, a 20% pay cut is enough to put them in a very difficult position, as the cost of living is only rising.

“We saw that many people were – and still are – regularly faced with a choice that no one should be faced with: either paying the bills, or eating.”

Shani sets up food stakes at various locations in Swansea every week, collecting surplus food from supermarkets and food suppliers.

“We collect from all the major supermarkets – Morrisons, Farm Foods, Asda, Castel Howell, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, so the food in stock is always really great quality. We have fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, cakes , there are pastries. , It really just depends on the day. If we think something doesn’t look fresh or tasty, we won’t exclude it. The amount of food surplus that goes to waste in big supermarkets is huge – We collect 27 times a day per week. If we don’t collect it, it will go to landfills.”

Shani clarifies that food is part of No a food bank.

She continued: “For using most food banks, there’s usually a criterion and a limit on how much you can use, how much food you can take. It’s the portion of the food that’s different – it’s a simple matter. Take what you need and what you need.

“The idea is just that you eat for free, so you can pay your bills without worrying about buying food, or even if you want to keep your money for yourself. If people don’t take the food , then it will only end up in a landfill anyway.

“We try to pop up in different places where we can increase reach, because not everyone can afford the bus or taxi fare.”

Shani posed with her daughter, who works with her at Ty Forest Resource Hub

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Meal crates that include a crate of fresh avocados for anyone in need, for free

As an outreach volunteer, Shani said that food-based projects have been hugely influential in reaching those who need help most – including sex workers and drug users.

“The one thing we all have in common is food. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what you’re going through, whether you’re a sex worker, an intravenous drug user or just someone A person who is short of cash – you have to eat.

“As an outreach team, we work with people who are sometimes afraid to open their doors, there is no point in asking for help. Many of them are sex workers, and if we can provide them with good fresh food If you can, it’s one less punter they’ll have to deal with.

“In the past 18 months, we have removed four sex workers – three women and one man – from the streets through various projects.”

Shani and the team raise money through regular car boot sales and face-painting, as they do not receive any funding or grants.

She said: “We use food as a starting point for people to join us for any further support, but we do a lot more than just food: we serve the elderly, victims of domestic violence. also help people, and we have been called in by South Wales Police as a crisis team, honestly we are all qualified to deal with mental health and first aid. We are in Swansea three days a week three different Locations work, one is on Matthew Street, and we all fund ourselves for every project.”

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An example of the quality of fresh produce in the edible portion

Uplands and Brynmill are popular food sharing places, and Shani pointed out that it is used by all members of the community, not just those out of work.

He also pointed out that people who have worked their entire lives have an increasing need for help in recent years.

She said: “Over the years, we’ve seen people who have worked for 30 years and have never been dependent on anyone for anything. It’s not easy being in a position like this – when you’re always working. And then all of a sudden you can’t eat – you’re alone and hungry.

“Asking for help or using a food bank can be painful, and it can be a really painful moment in one’s life, which is why we started the whole concept of an open meal portion.

“Most people don’t know where to start applying for a food bank, that’s where the food portion comes in – there’s no application, no criteria, nothing, you just show up and something Get food.We understand it’s not always easy for people to accept help, so we do our best to make it as casual and humane as possible.

“My The main priority is to help people eat without going into debt. Now there is a shortage of money in most places and everyone is struggling. Many young people have had to move with their parents. In the food portion, people can take as much as they want, if they have friends or family or even neighbors. No questions asked – no judgement.”

She continued: “How I see it is that we are all one step away from homelessness – a small step – and we are doing our best to make sure no one is forced to eat or pay bills. Ho. . “

You can find out more about the Ty Forest Resource Hub as well as the services they provide Here,