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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Monday 13 May 2013

Want to help? Just listen.

I hate killing time; it`s too precious. But I had a spare 20 minutes  in London`s Piccadilly last week. It was too rainy for Green Park, too much of a rush for the Royal Academy; anyway, I`d missed Manet. With money, the world`s your oyster here: hundred pound hampers; swish suits from Savile Row, Ritzy tea n` tasties at £45 a pop. This street isn`t exactly paved with gold; just pounded by people who love the stuff.

Over the road I could see a little green space and maybe a shelter from the showers, so I zigzagged between cabs, couriers and the odd Clapham omnibus and dashed down into a tiny square. There, in front of a church, was a little street market that I`d never seen before. Antiques, jewellery, bric a brac, scarves...Russian dolls, brightly painted plates....But it was this that caught my eye:

How about that? Right there, in the centre of the screaming city, a little oasis of calm. You can`t even hear yourself think in Piccadilly, but here, you stop; they listen.

It turns out the service has been running for 30 years; first a `counselling caravan`, now in a larger, brand new, watertight Shepherd`s Hut, thanks to `special delivery` from the UPS courier company.

It`s here that counsellors- in- training, along with the fully accredited professionals who run the service, see people from all walks of life, and in all kinds of crisis.

I called the coordinator, Zak Waterman today to find out a bit more.

`These are often people whose prognosis is poor; and people with very low expectations of the outcome, ` he told me.

Here are just a few of the cases he remembers well:

+ a homeless man; down on his luck in pretty much every respect, on the streets with no job, who decided to follow the counsellor`s advice about agencies that could help. Four years later, and settled in the West Country, he sent a donation and his thanks.

+A man who`d battled with a drink problem; and won. He`d received a medal from his alcohol advice group after five years without booze. He chose to donate it to the green caravan team

+ A woman with schizophrenia, with prescribed medication that she didn`t always take. She was so frightened, Zak recalls, of being sectioned, that she would often stay away from her bedsit after dark just in case `they` called for her; preferring instead to spend all night in an internet cafe, turning up in the mornings, `sleepy eyed` at the caravan. The team were able to liaise with her medical and clinical specialists, without becoming part of her case team. `It was important for this lady that we were outside that set up,` Zak said.

So many stories, so many sad experiences have been retold in the caravan; and seemingly, so many people have found it to be the turning point in their lives.

`There are plenty of just "ordinary" people who live in the area, ` said Zak.` People in bedsits, maybe, with communication problems, mental health issues, people who are just about surviving. For them, this is just one of the places they`ll visit in their week, along with soup kitchens, day centres and so on. We see people who might be highly educated and articulate--but things for them have just broken down, and they can`t get back on their feet. Often, they just come in for human contact.`

And along with the people who might need help from other professionals or crisis intervention, are those with `everyday` problems--with a partner, with their health, or their job--who just need a listening ear, as a one off, or on a continuing basis.

And so there it is. A Shepherd`s Hut in the city. Because, as Zak said, plenty of people who need help, and plenty of esteemed professionals, rate a listening ear more highly than almost any other intervention or clinical help.

`People in these situations don`t just need to hear you`re going to "fix" them, ` he said, `or that you`ve got a solution, or that, yeh, you`ve been through that, too. They want to be able to say, " at last-- somebody accepts me as I am. Somebody gets me" `.

+++Here`s where you can find out more:

The Co-ordinator
The Caravan Drop-In & Counselling Service
St. James's Church,197 Piccadilly, London W1J 9LL
Voicemail/Fax: 020 3137 9984


": " 》 if you've only got a few seconds read the last paragraph; you'll go back for the rest!

: How to help? Just listen. ” this is so right. Every city should have one.

  1. no problem. Many people need this yet when they go to NHS they get told 6 month waiting list. 5 minute chat can change lives

We all just want to be accepted for who we are - lovely uplifting writing Jane xx

Hi Jane Thanks so much for your message. Thought your piece was excellent and as one of your responders said 'very moving' . 
Best wishes 

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing Jane :)