Big Breakfast Plus (BB Plus) is a charitable organisation serving the homeless in Swindon. Popularly known as Broadgreen Breakfast Club, it was formed in 1993 by two individuals to provide breakfast two days a week for the homeless and rough sleepers in Swindon – so in June 2018 the cake on the left will show 25!
From January 2018 we’re open 7 days a week providing a free cooked breakfast, unlimited refills of hot drinks and an opportunity to meet and socialise in a warm and inviting place. It’s also a safe place for outreach workers from other organisations including Threshold Housing Link, Nelson Trust and Swindon Borough Council to provide advice and signposting to help with housing, health, drug and alcohol addiction, employment and other matters. Over 75% of Threshold’s initial contacts with homeless people are made over breakfast. As many of our guests have mental health issues or are struggling with drug and/or alcohol addiction they often lose vital contact with other services and the outreach teams can make that contact on their behalf.
BB Plus is based at St Luke’s Church Hall in Broad Street and is open from 7 to 9 am Monday to Sunday. During 2017 we welcomed over 350 different individuals who were rough sleeping, sofa surfing, or had no access to cooking facilities or income to pay for food. Our guests are fiercely protective of the project and appreciate the devotion of staff and volunteers. Not only is the food hot but it is individually ordered and served, providing choice for those who have little or no choice in their lives. BB Plus bridges a gap not covered by other agencies.
Peter’s benefits were stopped last December because he’d stopped looking for work. But he hadn’t stopped looking through idleness, rather it was frustration and despair that made him give up. All the ‘available’ jobs had gone before he applied for them and he was angry that companies didn’t even bother to acknowledge his applications. His benefits have been re-instated, but he says: “How can I get work
with no food inside me? How can I go to an interview when I’m starving? Even if I did get a job, you get no money to buy food until you’ve been working a week or a month. You can’t do it.” He has bills to pay now, built up whilst his benefits were stopped, so he has no spare money to spend on food. He can’t see a time when he’ll be able to find work again.
Mark is originally from Salisbury. By the time he was 15 both his parent had died, his father had a heart attack and then his mother died of cancer. He was an apprentice printer at 16, coming to Swindon to work at Metal Box in Cheney Manor. When Metal Box closed down he moved to Swindon Press. But printing jobs became harder to find because the industry was contracting, so he found work where and when he could. His last job was gate security at Jury’s Hotel while it was being built. That job ended when the hotel was finally opened and then he had a period of ill health when he was being treated for bowel cancer. He hasn’t worked since. He’s still interested in the printing business though and he brings the Metro paper into Big Breakfast Plus each day for everyone to read. He knows that he can’t manage his money – it goes straight to the bookies or the pub as soon as he gets it and there’s never anything left to pay his rent. But the outreach worker has sorted that out for him now so that his rent will be paid before he has the chance of spending it.
John was born in London but his family moved to Swindon when his father was offered work in the town. They lived in Penhill. After school John worked for a market gardener who specialised in rhubarb, flowers and bulbs. His life changed when his boss closed down the company and he found it hard to find other work. He has no contact with family members, he never married, but was engaged once. He acknowledges his inability to sustain relationships. One day he returned to his flat to discover the locks had been changed. He doesn’t know why, and doesn’t know where his belongings – including his passport and other important papers – ended up. He assumes they are in store somewhere. Now he is sleeping on a friend’s sofa. John says he used to drink vodka and coke to excess, but he doesn’t drink alcohol at all now.
Mary had been married, but her husband had a serious drink problem and a tendency to violence. After she discovered that he was having an affair, she told him to leave. He grabbed her around the throat. She called the police who arrived in no time and stayed with her until he left.
She moved to Fairford with her youngest daughter and worked as a cleaner in an old people’s home, which she loved – but it didn’t pay enough for her to afford to pay her rent and Council tax so she was evicted. She tried to move in with her older daughter who was living with her boyfriend, but her daughter rejected her and they haven’t spoken for 5 years. She ended up living on the streets. After being admitted to hospital the Council said it wasn’t safe for her to go back to the streets
so found her a place in Davis House. She was there for three months – then a friend said she could stay with her, but when she arrived the friend said she didn’t want her so she was homeless again.
Growing up in London, Paul had a good education and was an electrical engineer, working in the semi-conductor industry in Swindon. When it got harder for him to find work he repaired TVs and computers. Eventually he set up his own IT business in Cirencester. But he couldn’t make enough money to pay the rent on his flat. In retrospect he thinks he should have moved back to Swindon sooner, where accommodation was cheaper and where he had more contacts. It would probably have been easier for him to make a living in Swindon than Cirencester. But he didn’t see what was coming, he lost his flat and now he is living on sofas – moving from friend to friend.