This week we have had 5 new clients in the centre which has been good. We are always pleased to have new people come to Bens. Part of the process of coming into Bens is that we have to assess our potential clients and this means that we take them into the office and sit down with them and fill in a form. This is not a quick job, as often it takes a time to find out why they have arrived at our door and are in the situation they are. Often clients will have come because they have met one of our existing clients who have encouraged them too. That is ok, but often when this is the case they are well primed! They usually tell you that they are drinking copious amounts of alcohol. So much, that if it were the truth, they would not A, be standing and B, alive! After a little gentle coaxing, and also listening to what they are saying, you begin to get a more accurate picture of their lives.The most usual time for clients wanting to come into the centre is lunchtime! This is understandable but it is very rarely that we will assess at this time as it is too busy and we need them to know that Bens is about more than food. When this happens we suggest they come back about an hour later. Often they never return. While assessing clients, we have to take into account whether these people present any risk, both to themselves or other clients. Our strap line is that we are a place of stability for street drinkers. So we have to look closely at these areas. We do have a policy which allows clients in for 4 days, and in that time we are able to see whether they are street drinkers and to evaluate more fully if there may be any risk. This will involve speaking with other agencies that may know them and receiving a referral from them. In these 4 days we lay down more clearly our boundaries and some ways that they can begin to engage with us; and we can then begin to look at some of their more urgent needs. Often, on entry clients will start asking for things very quickly and again we have to look closely at these needs and determine what at this stage is needed. We tend not to give much out in these 4 days, unless the need is extremely urgent, as we want clients to engage with Bens. At the beginning they will assess the centre and receive lunch. On the leaflet we give out to clients, this stage is illustrated by the red traffic light. This is a crisis point often where we allow clients to stop and recover before they are able to move on to the next stage. This stage for some may take a long time and that is perfectly ok. We then try to move clients through into our next stage, the amber light. Here they are beginning to look at ways of doing things for themselves. This will often mean standing a alongside them as they progress slowly. Along the way are many frustrating moments and times when you wonder whether you are making any headway. Then there is one moment when something amazing happens and you are carried for another day or given fresh hope and the client too, begins to see, that there may be hope for them. The last stage is the green light. This stage is a place where clients begin to see what they are capable of and begin to increase in confidence in assessing new skills in cookery, IT etc. We are aiming for individuals to develop self-esteem and see the opportunities available to them. As their motivation increases with their new skills they begin to make more choices for themselves. Clients become more empowered. No two clients are the same; all have different stories to tell. We have to keep looking at each of them as individuals who need help and encouragement and that begins with our assessment. It’s a small window at the beginning to give them a start on this journey. Our long-term aim is to provide opportunities for our clients to make choices in their lives and empower them to move on.