A cup of coffee... and a little human contact; As part of The Echo's campaign to raise PS75,000 to get support to the people sleeping rough in Cardiff, reporter Ruth Mosalski spent the morning with the breakfast team from charity The Wallich.
It's the first time I think autumn has definitely arrived.
The night before was the first time that the temperature had dropped into single figures.
It's dark outside and as I make my way through the city the usual rush of people I see on the pavements on my way into work aren't there.
Most of the people who I do see aren't night shift workers or students soaking up the last of freshers' week but people who have spent the night before sleeping in the doorways, on the benches and hidden in the alcoves of some of our city's most historic buildings.
I was joining charity The Wallich on what everyone calls the breakfast run (but which is technically the rough sleepers intervention team).
They go out with other agencies every day of the year.
We all gather in the tiny office at The Wallich's Nightshelter in Grangetown.
This morning there is a mix of staff from The Wallich and the council as well as a nurse and staff from Shelter.
Boxes have been packed with bacon or sausage sandwiches, boiled eggs, and the flasks filled with boiling water.
The boxes are loaded into the back of two vans - which is a change from the usual routine.
The team members who go out every day are worried they are not getting enough time with the people they're meant to be helping - because there are now so many people sleeping rough.
So, in a change to the regime, they have split into two teams.
We set off, first to Pontcanna.
There's a council worker and outreach manager Danielle along with me and another Wallich volunteer.
As we drive towards Pontcanna we take responsibility for a window each, looking out to see if we can see anyone.
One of the Wallich staff in our van had seen someone in the petrol station off Cathedral Road on her way in, so we divert there.
So we continued to the places where they know people sleep.
They both know where to look, which subway to check, when to stop to check a doorway or a car park.
They speak in a sort of shorthand about who will be where. They can tell you the names and physical descriptions of who is usually where.
As well as their own knowledge they get reports via a new app, Streetlink, where anyone can report having seen a homeless person and their description so staff know where to find them.
In some places empty sleeping bags were abandoned and, on this morning, many of the usual hangouts were empty.
The next stop was the National Museum.
As we pulled near we saw a group sleeping on the top of the stairs. How many were in the medley of quilts and sleeping bags I didn't know.
Two people abandoned their layers and came down.
As they neared and you saw their faces you saw just how young both were. I'd have guessed one was in his teens but he started talking about his daughter - he was actually in his late 20s.
One of them you'd never have guessed was homeless. His clothes looked clean and he had just a drawstring bag on his back.
Danielle opened the boot and began taking their requests.
"Coffee, three," one said - versed in the daily routine.
She asked how his housing application was going. He said he wasn't planning on applying because he has an upcoming court appearance. So, instead, he was asked if he knew where he needed to be and when.
One of the men is from Eastern Europe. Without a job he won't be able to prove he has any local connections - the benchmark the authorities use to determine need. He won't get any help.
He took a hot drink, a hot sand-wich, and went back to his bed.
Just metres away, at the crown court, there were three couples all sleeping in the pillars at the top of the stairs.
Two came down for food. But as they did security staff approached saying they needed to leave and telling the charity they should make them do so.
The couples were both young, probably in their 30s.
One of the women was wearing just a sweatsuit tracksuit. I felt guilty in my big coat. She hobbled towards us. She told another volunteer that her shoes were a kids' size 12 and too small. So small they'd given her chronic blisters.
As she took a coffee from me (white, two sugars) her hands were shaking so much she splashed some of the liquid on the floor.
She asked for a cereal bar so she had something to eat later on.
Her boyfriend was cwtching his polystyrene cup so hard I put his in his pocket.
None of this group hang around long - they take what's offered and go.
They listen when they're told the nurse will be at the Huggard Centre that day, and there's some hope she'll go get her blisters seen to.
She may even manage to get another pair of shoes, the staff tell her.
As the remaining couple don't come down the outreach staff go to check on them. They recognise the trainers positioned right next to the person's head. The staff share a name: "That's what he was wearing last week, it's probably him".
Even though they've not been able to give a warm meal they can record who they've seen on their clipboard, keeping tabs on who is where.
And that's what they're keen to point out.
The point of the breakfast run isn't just to give food. In fact, in some ways, the sandwich isn't the biggest offering. Cardiff has tens of incredibly generous different groups, some charities, some church-run, and some volunteers who just spent their time taking hot food out onto the streets.
As one member of staff tells me you can get almost every meal for free from somewhere in the city.
The key difference in having trained staff going out is that they can use the time that the homeless person is eating their sandwich or drinking their coffee to ask how they are.
On this day the nurse being there meant that people got their dressings changed and one was given a flu jab.
Queen Street is always their busiest stop. Two men came towards us from a shop window.
One had opened his sleeping bag up and had it wrapped around him in a bid to stay warm.
The other was in just a T-shirt, jumper and sweater. He had no coat.
The staff asked why and rattled off a list of places where he can get one.
He said he'd try get to one of them: "I think we've actually got a couple of new ones, if you can get down today," they say.
As we moved down Queen Street, in convoy now with the other van, you barely get a few metres before seeing another sleeping bag tucked into a door. One of the vans stops each time.
We arrive near Boots.
On one side a former discount shop's doorway is filled with quilts. Coats are hung up. There's a sign neatly written.
There had obviously been more than one person there but now just a sleeping man remains.
He doesn't want anything, he barely grunts anything in reply, so we leave him.
Neighbouring Greggs are four men. Their belongings are laid out in an almost perfect square.
They've made beds which are raised off the ground.
We take four sandwiches, hot drinks, and our remaining two boiled eggs.
As one of the men reaches to me I see the injuries to his arm. Large scabs are dotted between the tattoos. He takes the egg and sinks back into his makeshift bed.
That morning between us we saw 42 people. That's 42 people who had spent the night in single-digit temperatures sleeping on a cold floor, exposed to the weather.
The point of the campaign we're running with the charity at the moment is to raise PS75,000 to pay for five specialist vehicles.
It'll mean staff don't have to use their own cars. It'll mean they can get out to the people who need them.
They get donations of coffee from Costa but seeing it first-hand you realise how vital this service is.
That morning I made some coffees and handed out some sandwiches. But the important bit was the human contact, the advice, and the support. Surely that's worth PS3 of your money - the cost of a coffee and a bacon sarnie.
Members of the Wallich rough sleepers team on the streets in the Riverside area of Cardiff. From left: Chantall Roberts Danielle Martin and Will Eastwood ALED LLYWELYN
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Oct 17, 2017|
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