London: In the freezing cold of a British November dozens of homeless people queued from 4pm for a 6pm meal distribution at British Asian Christian Association's venue at Clementswood Community Centre.
Our well-cooked meals have become more popular than McDonalds to the many visitors, who love my mum's hot spicy chicken curry, pasta and meatballs, fish and chips or whatever she chooses to serve up, in a regularly changing menu.
It is no surprise then, that when a team of nurses from the Hepatology Department at Queens Hospital, Romford, joined us from 6pm to undertake blood tests, for Hepatitis B &C, Syphilis and AIDS, they soon found themselves overwhelmed by the number of visitors they had to inspect. Unfortunately, after they had finished with their tests by 7.30pm the nurses were advised that over 30 people had been missed due to the length of time it took per assessment.
The good new however, is that our facilities were appreciated and suitable and because we have such a large homeless attendance, the Barking Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust staff, have agreed to return every week until they complete assessments on all the visitors.
Hear the NHS nurses explaining about their hepatology initiative when interviewed by Hannah Chowdhry
Feedback from our first run of test with the medical team was extremely good, with nurses informing us that they had one positive test and were about to begin regularly treatment with the individual.
Hannah Chowdhry, said:
"We have noticed a massive increase in our homeless visitors again during this lockdown.
"We are again serving over 65 per day and have been asked to cover Wednesdays and Sundays again as some of the local groups, have shut down for the lockdown.
"BACA is already the primary choice of food outlet for the majority of redbridge homeless people who love the varying menu we provide, especially when my mum cooks.
"They also appreciate the fact that with a meal they get to take away our daily foodbank items left over, from morning collections by mothers with children at our local schools.
"We depend and rely on donations from local people and hope more of you can provide food items, clothes, or toys for deprived children."
"We are working with westminster Drug project to ensure our homeless visitors get help with addictions and have access to rehabilitation centres and counselling.
"By partnering with the NHS now too, we are ensuring that our homeless visitors gain, a comprehensive physical, emotional and psychological support package.
"They have access to necessary medication and continue to receive a good level of nourishment."