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Soup runs told to re-think

February 06 2015
Some claim there are too many soup runs in Westminster. © The Simon Community Some claim there are too many soup runs in Westminster. © The Simon Community
Leading London homeless charities will try to persuade soup runs in the Strand to offer  services elsewhwere

Leading London homeless charities will this month try to persuade those providing soup in the Strand and surrounding streets to consider offering alternative services in their local boroughs.

The Passage’s Home for Good Partnerships project is organising a meeting on February 4 – hosted by The Connection at St Martin’s – which attempts to bring together Westminster-based soup run organisers with local charities around the city to work in partnership.

Westminster City Council has long considered the number of soup runs operating from The Strand problematic and believes they encourage homeless people to congregate in the area.

However, in recent months the number is believed to have grown, with a variety of charities, faith groups and activists providing food on the streets. These include ‘the Homeless Kitchen’, a 24-hour stall originally set-up in Trafalgar Square giving away hot drinks and sandwiches.

However, some building-based charities claim that soup runs do not meet the needs of homeless people in a “productive way”, as they provide food rather than help and support to get people off the streets.

In the past, Westminster City Council has considered byelaws to prevent people from giving out food on the streets. However, insiders now say that their approach is to be more of an attempt to win over “hearts and minds”.

A spokesman from Thames Reach, which will be represented at the meeting by Jeremy Swain, said: “I think everyone appreciates the amazing efforts of all those involved in soup runs, but the idea is to help channel that energy into making a lasting impact on people’s lives. That might be about helping people set up soup kitchens in their own areas – perhaps open up their church halls – and linking with housing services that can help people to move on with their lives.”

However, Alastair Murray of Housing Justice, which hosts the Soup Run Forum and will also attend the meeting, said that there was a real need for support services in Westminster. “We would like to see more open-access indoor provision in Westminster and all the London boroughs. There is a real lack of friendly, neighbourhood drop-ins for people who are homeless or living in poverty, where they can hang out and access facilities. 

“Currently, many of the day centres are restricted to working with those who are verified rough sleepers with their details on CHAIN. And while the staff do an excellent job, unfortunately many people boycott them because they will only work with people who will sign-up to coming off the streets.”