In keeping with the theme seen in a lot of well-known ‘tourist traps’ across the United Kingdom, behind the picturesque postcard views of Newquay lies a town which faces challenges with poverty.
However, if there’s one thing Newquay doesn’t do, is look the other way when people need help and its reputation as one of the more welcoming communities for those in need is not undeserved.
Perhaps ironically, nestled in between the hotels which during the summer play host to holidaymakers from across the world, is an operation of a scale that is equally impressive and indicative of the genuine crisis facing an increasing amount of people – DISC Newquay.
Born out of a desire to ensure no one goes without what they need when they need it most, DISC goes above and beyond what you would ordinarily associate with a ‘foodbank’ type operation. A dedicated team of volunteers prepares a vast quantity of cooked, nutritious meals from ingredients either donated or sourced from supermarkets which would otherwise go to waste.
The provision of food isn’t where it ends, though – for during the hours DISC is open, it provides people who might otherwise have nowhere to go during the day with a place that’s safe, warm and where they can get something to eat and drink as well as help with emergency utility top ups in addition to support and signposting.
Here at Harbour Housing, we’ve proudly worked with DISC Newquay as part of our seasonal Cold Weather Provision service which provides people who are street homeless with a place to stay and a crucial intervention point as we help them navigate the pathway from homelessness to independent living and on a bright spring day, we decided to pay DISC a visit.
Greeting us upon our arrival was the formidable force-of-nature that is DISC’s founder, Monique Collins. It’s perhaps not surprising that many people find DISC and Monique synonymous, for its her determination to help all who need it which has seen her project grow as the demand for assistance has grown.
For one of our newer team members, who had never visited DISC before, the immediate thing that struck them upon arrival was the sheer size and scale of the operation. While they were aware of what DISC did, their first reaction was a surprise at the scale – or to quote exactly: “Bloody hell.”
Before their eyes was a sight you’d often associate with the term ‘military operation’. There was a table longer than something you’d see at a state banquet full of prepared meals ready for distribution, with volunteers milling to-and-fro the kitchen with the latest prepared meals. Meanwhile in a corner, was a vast litany of boxes and packaging with the latest consignment of ingredients and products sourced and donated. In another section of the building were some people for whom, while daily life was uncertain and unsettled, for the time they were at DISC, they had somewhere away from the vagaries of reality.
While it was a surprise to them, for our High Intensity Projects Team Lead, Harriet Spalding, responsible for the Cold Weather Provision which receives food from DISC, it very much wasn’t. Immediately greeted by Monique as one would a friend, the conversation quickly turned to a series of similar questions: “Would Cold Weather Provision like X”, with Monique pointing to something that had been donated or sourced. It didn’t stop at food, either, with everything from socks and hats to therapy books being offered. As for the food, it wasn’t just your usual foodbank tinned food affair either; everything from the usual tins to radishes, muller light yoghurts and bananas was for the offering.
It was just as well that we’d brought a van as it was space that we quickly found we needed. While we’d visited DISC mainly to touch base, we were set to return with a multitude of things for the residents at the Cold Weather Provision – not only to eat and drink, but to make things that little bit easier for them.
In a time where, especially in light of the cost-of-living crisis and armed conflict that the ability to profit outweighs the basic human instinct of wanting to help, it would take someone with a heart of stone to not see what DISC does as something truly remarkable.
For all we might wish for a world where no one faces homelessness or one where poverty is consigned to the history books, recent events are a reminder that we are still far away from that particular utopia of hope; however, until then, much like our teams at Harbour do all they can to transform the lives of at-risk people, alongside us are groups like DISC who make sure they are never alone or without the very basics we need to survive and thrive.