A small charity serving free food and handing out warm clothing for the homeless and those living in poverty has seen an increase in demand for its service this winter but is struggling to cover its own running costs.
The Soup Kitchen at the rear of the American International Church in Tottenham Court Road is open for two hours, five days a week serving hot food and drink and providing clothing and a welcoming community for rough sleepers and others in difficult housing circumstances.
“We are supporting more people than ever before,” says Miranda Suit who spoke to Fitzrovia News this week about the emergency appeal for funding they have launched to ensure they can continue to provide what they say is a vital service.
About one third of the guests coming to the kitchen sleep on the streets, while another third are either in temporary accommodation or “sofa surfing”. The rest of the people they help are in social or private housing but are struggling to feed themselves because of cuts to, or delays in getting, their welfare benefits.
“We see growing numbers of people on the streets. We have had some bitterly cold weather, and state benefits continue to be cut back, making it a huge challenge to survive on the streets or even on a low income,” she says.
Statistics produced by the Soup Kitchen show a large increase in people using the service in December and January compared with the same months a year ago.
But the Soup Kitchen is struggling to keep its doors open as costs rise and the level of funding coming in is going down as more and more charities compete with each other for funding.
“We may have to cut back our service in April,” says Suit. “If we can’t meet the funding shortfall we may have to reduce the hours we are open in order to keep the service going every week.”
Having a regular service is important as it provides a community for those who would often be ignored and have no place to go. “Many of our guests — whether they are sleeping on the street or in housing — don’t get the chance to talk to people except when they come to the Kitchen,” she says.
The Kitchen has a good supply of donated food, clothing and volunteers, but is very short of cash to meet other running costs. The Soup Kitchen urgently needs more than £5,000 to meet its initial £18,000 fundraising target — just the first stage of ongoing core costs of £6,000 a month.
Support the Soup Kitchen emergency appeal. Online: justgiving.com/miranda-suit3/
By cheque: Made out to the ‘Soup Kitchen’ , and sent to: Soup Kitchen at the American International Church, 79a Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4TD. Or by bank transfer: email Miranda Suit for bank details: firstname.lastname@example.org