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The soup report: The right help in the right place at the right time?

September 27th 2009
Soup runs provide an invaluable "safety net" for rough sleepers who slip under the radar of regular support services, a new report has claimed. The study, carried out by the London School of Economics, found that soup runs reach many vulnerable people and fill an important gap for those who may not be using mainstream facilities. The report ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ Soup runs in Central London: The right help in the right place? at the right time? ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ was written by LSE researchers Laura Lane and Anne Power, who interviewed hundreds of rough sleepers, service providers, local businesses and residents in the borough of Westminster. Published last month, it was part-funded by Westminster Council, which has maintained a long-standing opposition to the practice of soup runs. Last year, the council even went as far as to trying to outlaw them, claiming they reinforce a damaging lifestyle by trapping people into homelessness. Housing chief Councillor Philippa Roe said last year that large-scale soup run operations were "damaging the health and life chances of rough sleepers". Jeremy Swain, the chief executive of charity Thames Reach, also insists that soup runs have no place in the 21st century. He said: "Unfortunately, soup runs pride themselves on not asking information from everyone. They are disconnected from other services." But the new report, which was also part-funded by Crisis, found that soup runs filled in the "major gaps" in current policies for addressing rough sleeping. It concluded: "Soup runs, with their tolerant, open-access, and undemanding ethos alongside committed, knowledgeable and well-meaning volunteers, can access many vulnerable people who may not be reached through mainstream service provision." Jo Nurse, community manager at the London Simon Community, agreed. "Some, especially those who have been on the streets for a long time, have no incentive to go to building-based services. Without soup runs [vulnerable people] would be in more trouble," she said. And Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour group, said the council should make a "full apology" to the charities who provide soup runs in the borough. In light of the report's findings, Councillor Roe said: "We take the point that [soup runs] are not just providing food but social contact. "If that's the case we should look at the services we already have. There may be a group of people that, for whatever reasons, we are not reaching. "We, of course, share the concerns of others for the vulnerability of rough sleepers, but the over-provision of uncoordinated soup runs in Westminster does little to assist people to move off the street. In fact we believe there is evidence they act as a magnet bringing people back onto the street and contribute to them remaining rough sleepers. "Rough sleeping damages a person's life chances and their needs are best served through accessing the many services offered by councils, charities and other organisations. "We believe that in 2009 there is no justification for providing rudimentary food handouts on the street. Services should be provided indoors and geared towards helping people move away from rough sleeping." The study aimed to provide an "independent and objective perspective on soup runs in the Borough of Westminster", addressing both sides of the argument for their use. It said: "For some, soup runs are a valuable, life-saving resource that help to feed and support rough sleepers and other vulnerable people. "For others, they represent an outdated, poorly targeted and uncoordinated service that supports and sustains damaging street lifestyles. "We wanted to find out whether and how soup runs in Westminster fitted into the commitment of the government to provide 'the right help, in the right place at the right time'." Criticism has also been levelled at soup runs by residents, who claim they cause problems with litter and anti-social behaviour. The report acknowledges this, saying: "Soup runs tend to provoke strong and often emotive responses from all involved. We have tried to present an independent and objective analysis of these positions in the hope that some middle ground can be uncovered to help move forward discussions of the role of soup runs in Westminster. The report, which found that there is a well-established timetable of soup runs organised by voluntary groups in Westminster, also made a number of recommendations to improve the service. These include more support for the sizeable foreign homeless community, more provision indoors and increased mentoring from volunteers.

September 2009



Best foot forward

Jumping the gun

Doing the Kiltwalk

Sally forth

Homelessness Hurts

The soup report: The right help in the right place at the right time?

Space at Emmaus

MP's expense and being on the street

Anger at a common scene

Operation Loose Change

London's 15 per cent rise in homeless

Swine flu preparations made

Goings on at Novas

Westminster fails to follow up on street count accuracy

Inquest goes ahead as homeless man's family is found

Charities squabble with politicians over homeless rights

Bum fights caused 27 deaths last year

Professional beggars working in Leicester

Belfast local charged with murdering his nephew

Seattle "breached constitutional rights‚Äö?Ñ?? by refusing tent city

Thames Reach, Blenheim partner up

Homeless services to pay for banning animals

Economic crisis transforming US homeless population

Street Shield 7: The Missing Man


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