A local charity has launched a juicy new scheme to encourage Swindon's residents and local businesses to support the town's homeless.
Today Threshold Housing Link launched a new social enterprise 'Health & Wellness Juices' in Swindon's town centre.
Created by Threshold's business manager, Michael Keenan, and Threshold resident, Mark Mutlow, Health & Wellness Juice aims to support homeless residents by offering a pathway into employment, as well as promoting physical and mental wellness through juicing.
Mark Keenan said: "About seven weeks ago we started brainstorming – ‘what can we do for Swindon’s homeless’, because they’re so nutrient starved living on the street. Nutrient deficit is a big deal.
"Mark Mutlow and I conceived this idea about juicing for residents at Culvery Court, which is one of Swindon’s direct access hostiles. We started juicing every morning and it went down a treat, and it just grew from there.
"A whole host of research shows, which is no surprise, that micronutrients makes the brain better equipped to be able to deal with the traumas of life.
"The juices were a big hit and then we thought ‘wouldn’t it be great to put this on a more commercial scale, to actually juice to corporate order’ – that’s what we’ve been doing here.
"Homelessness is a massive problem worldwide, – it’s a complex and messy problem – and there’s no quick fix solutions but what I want to be able to say is that Threshold are part of the solution. There’s lots of challenges, like the public images of homelessness, - businesses don’t want people sleeping in their doorways – so this is a solution around tackling that bigger societal problem.
"The most fabulous thing about this project is that it’s for the residents, – residents who would have been homeless otherwise – and this provides a fabulous progression pathway for them and a number of the residents involved have turned into keyholders. So, this is their shop and their produce – it’s just ace, it’s so great.
"It’s one of the best projects I’ve ever been involved with. It’s so moving because our motivation is all about helping others and improving life opportunities of some of the most vulnerable people in society."
Mark Mutlow, who volunteers at Health & Wellness Juices, has also created the juice recipes for customers to purchase. He hopes this new initiative can help people, like him, to get off the streets and overcome addiction.
He said: "This is my way of giving things back to Threshold and the homeless people of Swindon, because literally two years ago I was homeless myself for four and a half years. When I came off the alcohol, - I was an alcoholic – it was a real tough time for me because my body was just rinsed of everything. If something like this was around then, I think my recovery would have been twice as quick – just making me feel better, putting my mind into perspective.
"I’d like to, hopefully, six months down the line end up having a paid job. I’d also like to help others who’d like to come in and volunteer on their progression pathway, or even just for their detox – getting their mind round things.
"It’s getting people’s minds to think, ‘there is somebody to help, or even to support me, and if they can do it why can’t I? and that’s the way I’m looking at this as well."
Robert Buckland QC MP officially unveiled Health & Wellness Juices this morning. He said: "I’m genuinely excited by projects like this and I very much hope it takes off - not just amongst the homeless community, but as place where people from all parts of our local society can come in and do the things that everybody else does. The normalness of it all is very important as well if you’d had a life of uncertainty, anxiety, rough sleeping and homelessness.
"The Government is now providing more and more funding to help tackle rough sleeping and homeless in towns like Swindon – that’s great, but it will only translate into reality on the ground with the support of our council and businesses. That’s why I think an initiative like this, and Mark’s story, is inspirational quite frankly – it’s not easy to suddenly move away from a life of addiction.
"What Mark has done is titanic, and I’m confident he will get to his goal of a paid job because he is eminently employable. I think the more that Mark and other people - who have spent years assuming that their position in society is a minor one - see that other people are taking them seriously, listening to what they say and encouraging them, the better their self-esteem will be.
"Homeless people, they tell me, become invisible – they almost become dehumanised – and very much ‘other’. We have to remember that we are all part of the same society, – we’re all human beings – and we all need respect, a bit of space and interaction. That’s why I really like projects like this – I’m enthused today."
For further information visit www.thl.org.uk