Birkenhead Homeless Man Humiliated

A McDonald’s employee reportedly left a homeless man ‘in tears’ when he was alleged to have poured Coca Cola on him outside a branch of the fast food outlet.

The alleged incident happened next to the McDonald’s drive-through at The Rock Retail Park by Green Lane in Birkenhead on the morning of Tuesday, September 21. Tracy Martindale, 53, arrived around 11am to see the homeless man ‘in tears’ talking to the fast food outlet’s duty manager (not the accused employee).

Tracy, a bus driver from Upton, was “fuming” when she learned from them what had happened. She told the Liverpool Echo: “It’s so bad. You don’t do that to another human being, whether they’re beggars or not. You just don’t. I was fuming. I was bouncing.” Tracy added: “I can’t see people do that to other people.”

After speaking to the homeless man Tracy went the other side of Birkenhead Park to buy new clothes for him. But the manager of Koala Charity Shop Claughton, Mandy Edwards, gave the coat, trousers, jumper and top to her for free.

Mandy told the Echo: “I said ‘No, it’s fine to just take them’, because that’s awful what they did to him. So we donated the clothes and said, ‘just take them, that’s fine’. They haven’t got much dignity anyway. They’re trying to keep their dignity, and then someone throws a thing of Coca Cola all over them. It’s awful, isn’t it?”

Speaking of when she returned to the homeless man with fresh clothes, Tracy said: “He was nearly crying. Oh my god, he couldn’t believe that somebody was doing that for him. It was what he needed at the time.”

A spokesperson for McDonald’s told the Echo: “We are aware of this allegation and are investigating this as a matter of urgency.”

How To Help The Homeless This Winter

With pandemic restrictions lifting, many homelessness organisations are already reporting a rising number of people sleeping rough. Fiona Colley, Director of StreetLink talks about how members of the public can play a role in supporting people sleeping rough this winter.

For many people, the ending of the majority of pandemic restrictions has rightly been a joyous time. It’s been an opportunity to re-unite with loved ones, go on holidays and live something approaching a normal life for the first time in nearly a year and a half. But, for an increasing number, it brings with it the potential of homelessness.

A number of the pandemic specific support measures are coming to an end and many homelessness organisations are now reporting seeing more people sleeping rough, many of whom are doing so for the first time. It’s easy to think of this in broad numbers, but these are real lives. It could be a young person who’s recently left the care system, terrified and alone, or someone who lost their job in the pandemic and couldn’t afford their rent. It could be a woman fleeing an abusive partner or someone who’s recently arrived in the UK and is struggling to navigate the complex welfare system.

According to the homeless charity Crisis: “the longer someone experiences rough sleeping for, the more likely it is they will develop additional mental and physical health needs, substance misuse issues and have contact with the criminal justice system. The more complex needs someone has the more help they will need to move on from homelessness.”

This is why it’s so important that people sleeping rough are connected to local support services as soon as possible. That’s where members of the public have a vital role to play. StreetLink enables people to take positive action when they see someone sleeping rough. Alerts are sent to the local outreach service who then go and engage with the person in question. This one act could change the trajectory of someone’s life.

How you can make an effective StreetLink alert:

  • Provide a specific location of the person’s rough sleeping site. The best way to do this is by using a map to pinpoint the exact location and then providing a written description to go alongside it.
  • Provide details of the time the person was seen at the location.
  • Provide specific information that will help the outreach worker identify the person, such as; gender, approximate age, physical characteristics and/or clothes.

You can find out more at: www.streetlink.org.uk

Holiday Homes To House The Homeless

A council in Cornwall is getting set to buy two holiday parks and use them to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people, reports the Metro.

Cornwall council would not confirm exactly which venues they are buying as part of the £15 million investment, but confirmed they are in the Hayle and Helston areas and on the market. The council is also buying 12 disused properties and has a further 21 in the conveyancing process to turn into council housing. One of the holiday homes being turned into temporary accommodation could be Poldown Caravan and Camping Park in Carleen, near Helston, according to Cornwall Live.

Councillor Olly Monk, the council’s cabinet member for housing said during a meeting on Tuesday that the Hayle site would provide accommodation for 19 households, including single people and small families, while the Helston site would provide for nine families. He added that Cornwall was facing a major housing problem and that providing temporary accommodation was a particular issue.

It comes after the local authority said it was facing ‘enormous pressures’ because of the Covid crisis this summer. The county has seen a sharp increase in the number of people in need of temporary accommodation, with many landlords opting to turn rental accommodation into holiday homes and a housing shortage.

Conservative Mr Monk said the council was currently facing a £5.9m loss in housing benefit and suggested that ‘without significant capital intervention that cost will rise even further’. He added that he was ‘pleased’ to present the plans to ‘acquire two holiday parks and turn them into accommodation for families in need’.

It is unclear exactly when people will start being put up in the sites and some councillors did raise concerns about the plans, with some of the money being earmarked to provide affordable housing through a different initiative. The full details of the detail were not revealed in public, and were only discussed in in a private session on the confidential report.

‘Change Liverpool’ Initiative Under Fire

A city council cabinet member has led a strong backlash against what has been labelled a ‘dangerous and dehumanising’ homelessness campaign in Liverpool.

The ‘Change Liverpool’ initiative is a new approach that aims to persuade people not to give change to rough sleepers or those begging in the city – and to instead donate to a new community fund, reports the Liverpool Echo. The fund will rely on public donations that will be used to provide grants to those in need of support to get off the street and into new opportunities. Managed by the Community Foundation for Merseyside, the scheme has been launched in partnership with Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Parish Church, the city’s Business Improvement District and homelessness charity The Whitechapel Centre.

But, just a few hours after its launch, the campaign was facing strong criticism – including from an influential city council cabinet member. Concerns have been raised about the messaging of the campaign – including graphics that suggest any change given to people on the streets will automatically be spent on drugs and alcohol.

Cllr Sarah Doyle, the council’s lead member for development and housing took to Twitter to object to the project. She said: “I’m extremely disappointed to see Change Liverpool perpetuating these messages and further dehumanising homeless people. I’m going to be raising my concerns about the values behind this project immediately.”

In a further response, she added: “Lots of councillors have raised similar concerns with me over the last 24 hours and I’ll be requesting that the cabinet urgently looks into the project. We should not be encouraging any degrading stereotypes, the rhetoric that I’ve seen so far from the project extremely shaming and humiliating.” The comments come at a time when the council itself and other cabinet members have been supportive of the campaign.

Others working in the homelessness and housing sectors have also expressed their concerns. Kevin Pilnick of the Big Help Project, a Liverpool City Region charity tackling poverty, said: “Not having this. If I want to give direct I will. Don’t need to be told where to give my own money thanks. Who are Change Liverpool? Not having them just appearing and dictating as if the know it all about a hugely complex problem.”

Those behind the Change Liverpool say they believe this new approach is the best way to help get people off the streets, with fears of more people being forced into rough sleeping during the winter months. At the campaign launch last week, former gas engineer Jay Keenan, who was previously begging in the streets of Liverpool to fuel his addiction, said the new approach was the best way forward.

He said: “Change Liverpool is the right approach. We think giving money, food or a blanket to someone suffering on the street is helping them. It’s not. You’re just keeping them there. It’s a basic human instinct to help but although you may feel better about that support, in the long term all you are really doing is helping to slowly kill them by keeping that person on the streets.”

Crispin Pailing, Rector of Liverpool Parish Church, said: “Homelessness is something we cannot ignore and we all struggle with the right thing to do when asked for money. But giving £2 to someone on the street ultimately helps them stay on the street. We want you £2 to deliver targeted help to get people into homes and into work.”

Carol Hamlett, director at Transforming Choice, said: “We welcome the Change Liverpool initiative; society has become so desensitized to seeing people on the streets and in doorways, it has become the norm to give money directly to the individual. If 100 people beg for three days per week for a year, and receive £100 each day, that adds up to over £1.5m each year. We’d like to see this money collected into a fund that could support people with a deposit for a flat and enable them to turn it into a home – money for furniture, clothes or a training course, therapeutic sessions or detox and rehabilitation.”

She added: “Imagine the difference this fund could make to people’s lives. Liverpool has always been a trailblazer, let this city be the first city where rough sleeping and begging is not the norm, a city in which we recognise that people are worth more than a couple of pounds. Support the Change Liverpool initiative, and really make a difference to the lives of homeless people in Liverpool.”

Latest Homelessness Statistics Released

On 9 September 2021, MHCLG released the latest statutory homelessness statistics covering the period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, reports Dr Trent Grassian, research Manager at Homeless Link.

The statutory statistics capture data on everyone who has been assessed under the Homelessness Reduction Act, meaning that since 2018 we have been able to see a much more detailed picture of single homelessness. This is an incredible resource and is easily one of the best sources of homelessness statistics in the world.

However, whilst the Homelessness Reduction Act significantly expanded the number of people eligible for homelessness support from their local authority, the statutory statistics still only capture those who access support from Housing Options services. Therefore, whilst this data helps us understand the wider trends, they will not tell us about those not engaging with support, people experiencing more hidden forms of homelessness or those not entitled to support because of immigration restrictions.

According to the latest statistics, 268,560 households were at risk of or experienced homelessness from 2020-21. While this is a 7.4% decrease from 2019-2020, when 288,470 households were identified, it’s a 16.2% increase from 2018-19:

  • 119,400 households that were owed a prevention duty (down 20.0% from 2019-2020). These are people the local authority deems to be at risk of being homeless within 56 days.
  • 149,160 households that were owed a relief duty (up 6.1% from 2019-2020). These are people already experiencing homelessness and the local authority will have 56 days to try and provide settled accommodation.

Within the 2020-21 stats, we can see that homelessness has disproportionately affected certain communities, with single households, young people and people of colour (especially those who identify as Black), some of the groups where we are seeing the greatest increases.  This includes 119,360 single households who experienced homelessness, including an 11.7% increase in those owed a relief duty from 2019-20.

A main factor in this increase is likely to be the Government’s Everyone In initiative. This also reflects the continuing trend that this group is more likely to be already experiencing homelessness at the time of applying to their local authority for homelessness prevention / relief, while those with children are more likely to be at risk of homelessness. Specifically, while 55.6% of single households were owed a relief duty, the reverse was true of those with children, where 64.5% of applications were for a prevention duty.  We are also continuing to see a shift toward younger groups, likely an impact of COVID, with those aged 18 to 24 the only age group to have an increase in those experiencing homelessness (58,830 households), up 1.5% from 2019-20.

Another group that we know was disproportionately impacted by COVID was people of colour. While those who identify as white comprise 84.9% of the population, only 69.6% of people experiencing or at risk of homelessness came from this group. Those who identify as Black were the most overrepresented ethnic group, comprising 9.7% of those owed a homelessness duty, despite representing only 3.5% of the population. In London, those who identify as Black make up 12.5% of the population, but 30.2% of applicants.

The data also identified some key trends around the reasons households ultimately experienced or were at risk of homelessness.  In total, 31,180 households experienced or were at risk of homelessness due to domestic abuse, a 17.3% increase from 2019-20. This was also the most common support need for households with children, rising 13.9% to 15,370. Furthermore, 39.0% of applicants or 104,640 households were unemployed, a 18.2% increase from last year.

We have also seen that COVID has had a significant impact in the greater visibility of typically hidden populations, such as those in precarious housing or ‘sofa surfers’. For single households, for instance, the leading cause of homelessness was family or friends no longer being able to accommodate them, which was the case for 26,560 single households, an increase of 11.9% from last year.  In addition to these upward trends, we are also seeing decreases in homelessness due to evictions (down 73,7% to 8,940 households) and the ending of AST (assured shorthold private rented tenancy), which is down 41.2% to 33,960 households. However, as this is largely due to the many measures put in place during the pandemic – the majority of which have now ended, it is likely this number will begin to increase, potentially surpassing pre-pandemic figures.

Another potential positive trend was the increase in referrals from those exiting prison (up 58.7%) and the National Probation Service (91.3%), likely due to the introduction of Homelessness Prevention Task Forces in 2020, which may be helping to prevent those who were institutionalised by the state from rough sleeping by connecting them with services.

These statistics show how major policy interventions can have a real impact on homelessness across the country. It’s unsurprising that the number of people accessing statutory homelessness support dropped when one of the main causes of homelessness, private sector evictions, was suspended. Meanwhile, the removal of restrictions through Everyone In encouraged a record number of single people experiencing or at risk of homelessness forward for support.

We have seen a glimpse of how, with political will, homelessness can be greatly reduced. The question is, will the will remain as we start to leave the pandemic behind?

Doctor Saves Homeless People By Delivering Services On His Bike

After six years of saving lives, a GP practice helping hundreds of rough sleepers has been shortlisted for the London Homelessness Awards.

Located at The Margarete Centre near Euston station, the GP Outreach Programme at Camden Health Improvement Practice has over 600 registered homeless patients, a number which fluctuates up to 800 at points throughout the year. When Dr Gary Coleman sat down with his team at the NHS practice in 2015 to conduct an audit of causes of patients’ death over the preceding ten years, they noticed a striking fact: that the average life expectancy of the homeless patients they dealt with was a mere 47 years old.

Rather than being an outlier the team was shocked to learn that this was the national average life expectancy for homeless people. Despite this “horrific” statistic, Dr Coleman recalls that at the time, “we thought we could do something to change it”. The audit had shown that the causes of death were preventable. They ranged from infections, over-dosing and bleeding out to suicide and liver diseases. The challenge for the practice, which treats homeless people from the entire borough of Camden along with some from Islington and Hackney, was not in treating these causes of death. The problem was making sure their registered patients, mostly male and in their fifties, were actually engaging with the service.

As Dr Coleman points out, “a lot of the clients have had trauma since childhood”, explaining why many do not get medical help when they can. “They have, not unreasonably, learnt to not trust the establishment or authority figures, perhaps due to their previous experience in children services or more recently dealing with the police.” To overcome the problem of homeless patients dying as a result of disengagement with services, Dr Coleman started the GP Outreach Programme. After using data analysis to create a list of those patients most at risk of dying, he began going out on his bike once a week, trying to find homeless patients across Camden’s hostels and streets to perform check-ups and simple treatments.

“During the visits the main thing is vigilance, and to look for problems like infections, risks of suicide, blood clots, which might become emergencies. Cognitive impairment is one thing, in the past a homeless person might assume to have been intoxicated, but over months you get evidence that they have early on set dementia or are developing psychosis in their fifties. These patients would have been missed otherwise.”

While Dr Coleman is keen to point out that the programme’s success is built on multi-disciplinary teams both at hostels and at the practice, the fact that the outreach consists of “just me on my bike” has proved crucial to building trust with the patients over time. “Anything we can do to make life easier for the patient is a good thing. You present yourself as someone who’s easy to talk to and there for them, and if there’s a minor issue they have which I can treat, that trust starts to build. If they don’t want to speak or engage when I first visit, I pop back in a month to check in on them.”

This commitment to the outreach programme, and the respect Dr Coleman holds for his patients, has led to stunning results. Since 2015, the average life expectancy of homeless patients in Camden has risen from 47 years to 54. At the same time nationally, the life expectancy of homeless people has disgracefully fallen, from 47 years to 44. “Anecdotally, we just knew it was making a difference. For example, we finally started engaging one patient who had renal failure but had not been on dialysis, three or four years later they were still alive, whereas before they wouldn’t have been.”

While to onlookers the sight of a doctor reaching vulnerable patients on his bike may inspire images of Che Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries, to Dr Coleman medical outreach was nothing new. “I used to be an army doctor, so I suppose we were used to treating people remotely. I’ve toured Afghanistan, Bosnia, and been in terrain such as the Arctic or jungles – so doing something slightly novel wasn’t unusual to me. All I needed was my diagnostic kit.”

Given the simplicity of the outreach programme, if the practice wins the cash prize “expansion would be the ideal”. “I’ve done a lot of presentations about the project to GPs across London, lots of whom are interested and would love to replicate it, but they could never get it funded. Essentially the only cost is a GP’s sessional rate, if they already have a diagnostic kit and a bike. Two sessions a week covers a borough with 800 registered homeless patients.”

Dr Coleman recognises that to significantly reduce homelessness, change needs to take place on a “socio-political level”. But with characteristic modesty, he says his outreach programme is “useful”. For homeless patients in Camden, it has proven to save lives.

Preventing Homelessness Amongst New Refugees

Updated guidance for homelessness services working with refugees and people seeking asylum, including information about Afghan relocation and resettlement, provided by Homeless Link.

Do you support people who are seeking asylum or have recently been given refugee status? We have recently updated our guidance on working with refugees and people seeking asylum for homelessness services. As more people seek to settle in the UK from Afghanistan our sector can play an important role in supporting new refugees and preventing homelessness.

The Home Office publishes quarterly statistics on asylum applications, decisions, asylum support and resettlement and the latest release shows that, in the year to June 2021, 10,724 people were granted protection in the UK (in most cases meaning refugee status is granted). However, this is a 37% decrease on the previous year with the pandemic cited as a major factor. The data also reveals that there has been a sharp rise in those accommodated by the Home Office under something known as ‘Section 98’ – short-term placements in hotels for those awaiting dispersal accommodation. At the end of June 21 over 10,000 people were in Section 98 accommodation.

In response to the situation in Afghanistan, the Home Office recently outlined details of a new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) to provide resettlement in the UK for Afghans identified as most at risk, which is likely to include women and girls. Numbers given protection under this scheme will be limited though; 5,000 people in the first year and up to 20,000 over the coming years. There is also the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) for Afghans who have supported British efforts in the Country, which launched in April 2021 and will continue alongside ACRS.

Whilst the majority of people seeking asylum are accommodated and provided basic financial support by the Home Office whilst their applications are considered (and in some cases during appeal stages), the granting of refugee status can unfortunately lead to an increased risk of homelessness. Refugees have the same rights and entitlements as UK nationals but their chances of homelessness and destitution are highest whilst they seek housing, employment and benefits. They may be given little notice to leave their dispersal accommodation and require new knowledge and skills to integrate into the UK effectively. On top of this, they may be managing significant health and care needs and dealing with trauma.

Homelessness agencies engaging with people seeking asylum and new refugees, play a vital role in helping them prepare for the outcome of their application. Connecting with people effectively and early on can help ensure they have realistic expectations of options available to them, as well as support to access emergency help and navigating their new life in the UK.

The guidance includes a comprehensive list of further resources and highlights key areas where organisations can more effectively engage and support people seeking or granted asylum in the UK.

You can download the guidance document here.

Homeless Support Needs

More than 135,000 of the households in England who experienced or were at risk of homelessness during much of the pandemic also had other support needs, new UK Government statistics have revealed.

The statistics show that from April 2020 – March 2021 268,560 households experienced or were at risk of homelessness overall, representing a 7% decrease on the year before mainly due to the protections put in place during the pandemic, reports Scottish Housing News.

Half of households experiencing or at risk of homelessness had one or more support need. This includes victims of domestic abuse, young people leaving their family or care, people with learning disabilities, and people with experiences of mental health problems – which was the most common support need (66,470 people overall). These experiences put greater pressure on people and can make ending people’s homelessness even harder to resolve without the right support.

Compared to the previous year, 17% more (86,810 households) were pushed into homelessness because family or friends could no longer accommodate them – the single highest cause of homelessness in this time – and 17% more because of domestic abuse (31,190 households).

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “These statistics make painfully clear that you cannot free people from the cycle of homelessness without a proper home and crucially, the support they need to keep it long term. Half of the households forced into or put at risk of homelessness in the last year had one or more support need, which are harder to resolve without a stable home. For many people with multiple issues relating to mental health, trauma or addiction, short-term accommodation cannot prevent them being forced back into rough sleeping.”

He added: “We urgently need a national Housing First scheme that delivers them long term housing, alongside tailored, unconditional support to rebuild their lives and leave homelessness behind for good. The numbers are not huge: Crisis research shows that 9,000 people who were given emergency accommodation through the Everyone In scheme need this support, out of a total of 37,000. But the difference it would make to each of their lives would be immeasurable.”

Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “It is devastating for anyone to lose their home and councils are doing everything they can to support households and prevent them becoming homeless. Councils have worked tirelessly to tackle homelessness and the extraordinary effort to get thousands of rough sleepers off the streets during the pandemic is testament to this.”

He added: “While these figures reflect the emergency measures brought in following the COVID-19 outbreak, we are concerned that as life returns to normal there could be an increase in homelessness cases in the coming months. The increase in households with children who were homeless or threatened with homelessness due to domestic abuse is also deeply worrying.”

Cllr Renard concluded: “We want to work with government on a cross-departmental long-term homelessness prevention strategy and tackle our housing shortage as we recover from the pandemic. Giving councils the powers and resources to build 100,000 social homes for rent each year, including further reform to Right to Buy, would not only help to reduce homelessness but deliver a third of the Government’s housing target.”

Pop Star’s Brother Homeless And Living In A Tent

Pop star Cheryl Cole was said to be ‘knocked sideways’ after hearing about her older brother’s living situation.

Andrew Tweedy revealed he is living in a tent on the streets following a struggle with addiction, reports the Birmingham Mail. The singer, now simply known as Cheryl, is reportedly shocked and torn with guilt by the news that her older brother is now homeless.

Andrew Tweedy, the former Girls Aloud Star’s eldest sibling, recently revealed that he has been living in a tent for several months after a relationship breakdown. The news is said to have “knocked Cheryl sideways” and she is torn with feelings of guilt about what has happened to her brother.

Mr Tweedy said: “This is what I’m ****ing living like. I’ve been begging here for more than three months, and it’s something that has really broken my heart. I’ve got so much ****ing pride. With the family I’ve got, I shouldn’t be here. It’s horrible. None of them have contacted me. Even though Cheryl’s not helping me, she’s still my family. She probably won’t even know I’m on the streets. I don’t blame her at all. This is the lowest I’ve ever been.”

A source told Heat magazine, “Cheryl was obviously knocked sideways by the stories about her brother. It left her reeling on a lot of levels. She’ll always carry around those guilty feelings about Andrew.” They continued: “No matter what anyone says about his addiction, she’ll always wonder if things would have worked if she had tried harder with him, offered him even more than she did, if she could have saved him.” Cheryl had previously tried to help the 41-year old by offering to pay for rehab.

Before her 2006 wedding to footballer Ashley Cole, Cheryl visited her older brother in prison. “I left the prison in floods of tears,” the Call My Name singer wrote in her autobiography, Cheryl: My Story. “I had the means to really help Andrew now, if only he wanted to be helped, but he clearly didn’t.”

Also, in the book, Cheryl described how Andrew received a six-year prison sentence for stabbing someone when she was a teen leaving her devastated. “I’d be 18 by the time he was released, so I felt like part of my childhood was taken away that day too,” the singer wrote.

Free Meals For The Homeless Of Liverpool

A Liverpool bar is giving back to the city by providing free food for some of its most vulnerable communities, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Kitty’s Showbar on Tithebarn Street, on the outskirts of Vauxhall, provides 120 free hot meals every week for homeless people across the city. A team of dedicated staff and volunteers come together every Tuesday and Thursday, in co-operation with Mr Old Hall Street’s Kitchen, to deliver meals to struggling individuals and families in Liverpool.

The project, started this year, sees the Kitty’s Showbar team serve homeless people approximately 60 meals every Tuesday and a further 60 every Thursday.

Drag queen and co-owner of Kitty’s Showbar, Kitty Litter, said the project was born out of a passion for community and inclusion. Kitty told the Echo: “I put everything I am into this. I’ll die giving out food.”

The venue formerly known as The James Monro underwent a massive renovation in 2019 and subsequently transformed into an LGBT-friendly cabaret bar, with a fresh lick of rainbow paint on its exterior. With Pride flags hanging from its upper floor windows, Kitty’s Showbar signals to vulnerable people it is a safe space for Liverpool’s LGBT+ community.

In response to the recent spike in homophobic attacks in Liverpool, the venue is in talks to set up a taxi marshal outside its premises to make sure people can get home safe. Although it acts mainly as a hub for the LGBT+ community, the team at Kitty’s insists the bar is open to everybody.

Kitty added: “We’re gay owned, but we’re not just a gay bar. We’re for everybody. We’re a community space.”

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Kitty’s Showbar continued serving pensioners with hot meals every day. Elsewhere, the bar serves as a hub for some of Liverpool’s most deprived communities, hosting a pensioners’ lunch club every Wednesday with a free two-course meal and entertainment.

Additionally, co-owner Kitty is renovating the bar’s upper floors into a hotel, where one room will be reserved as a safe space of refuge for people fleeing domestic violence or a family crisis. Kitty continued: “We don’t turn anyone away. We’re here to help people in need.”