Then and Now: 25 years of serving the homeless
1993 – 2005
Big Breakfast Plus originally started out as the Broadgreen Breakfast Club. With an initial grant of £10,000 from Swindon Borough Council, we officially launched on Saturday 26th June with the aim of serving a free cooked breakfast for homeless people two mornings a week. Back in 1993 we were fortunate to have rent-free use of the hall, kitchen and showers at Broadgreen Community Centre in Swindon, which gave the breakfast club its original name. Indeed, today it is still affectionally known as the ‘breakfast club’ by some of our regular guests.
After receiving a Lottery grant we eventually opened 3, 4, 5 and eventually 7 days a week between 6-9AM. Although we had help to get started we were happy to pay our own way. The Broadgreen Breakfast Club arranged for fresh towels and tea towels delivered and collected by a local laundry company each day and rented a small cupboard for storage.
Our little storage cupboard was also home to the breakfast club telephone, an absolute necessity for guests in a time before mobile phones!
2005 – 2017
In 2005 we lost our funding from the local authority, along with many other voluntary organisations in Swindon at the time. Not only would we have to pay rent for the Broadgreen Community Centre, we also had to fund the cost of specialist cleaning every day for use of the building. With costs mounting, we started looking for a new base for the breakfast club.
We were glad to find a perfect spot through Father Leslie, the Minister at St Luke’s Church which is just around the corner from the Broadgreen Community Centre. The parish agreed to hire the hall for 2 hours a day between 7-9AM, Monday to Saturday. They even gave us the first month free and we’ve been there ever since.
Not only does Big Breakfast Plus offer a freshly cooked meal, we also offer a safe and convenient place where homeless people can access support without judgement. Our service was (and still is) much more than a breakfast club and in 2013 we changed our name from Broadgreen Breakfast Club to Big Breakfast Plus. The name change helped us highlight the ‘plus’ of our work with outreach workers from organisations like Threshold Housing Link, Swindon Night Shelter, and the drug and alcohol support agency CGL (now Turning Point).
For over 20 years, Angela Davidson was a trustee, Secretary, Chair, and volunteer co-ordinator who managed a small team of staff and volunteers. Angela announced in 2016 that she planned to retire on our 25th anniversary. Recognising that we couldn’t fill those shoes with another volunteer, Big Breakfast Plus appointed part-time paid Project Co-ordinator Jo Heaven, who joined us on 2nd October 2017.
Big Breakfast Plus: Today
So far in 2018 we’ve celebrated our 25th anniversary and trialled a 7-day service for 11 weeks to support the temporary winter housing provision at the old Health Centre at Carfax St. Our 7-day service is now operating on a permanent basis – as long as we can raise the funding we need to pay for hall hire. One of our trustees has also been instrumental in convening the Homeless Organisations Standing Together in Swindon (HOSTS) network, which brings together a variety of homeless support organisations and individuals with shared ideas, principles and values.
Big Breakfast Plus receives no statutory or local authority funding and we need to raise at least £500 a week to pay for our service costs. Between April 2017 – March 2018 we served over 7,000 breakfast to more than 400 unique individuals including rough sleepers, sofa surfers and those who have no access to cooking facilities or money to buy food. Many of our guests have complex needs including mental health issues, drug or alcohol addiction and debt.
We’re extremely proud of our record of service to the homeless since 1993 and especially of the invaluable contribution of our very small part-time staff team, backed up by our wonderful set of dedicated volunteers.
We need your support
25 years and who knows how many breakfasts later, we’re still here and needed more than ever. That’s where you come in…