In London alone, there are over 8,000 people sleeping rough. The government’s benefit cuts and failing welfare system have seen the number of homeless people in London double over the last five years.
As one of the most expensive cities in the country, Winchester has a growing problem with homelessness as more and more people are pushed out of affordable housing. One person who is trying to help is Connie Ball, a 21-year-old graduate of Winchester University; she decided to start a soup kitchen.
credit: Mag’s Media
“When you walk through the main street in Winchester, there are homeless people sat outside every shop. Seeing such a wealthy city become more expensive and seeing more people turned out onto the streets makes me really angry.” Connie wasn’t sure what she could do to help, but she figured a batch of soup wouldn’t be passed up. “It only takes an hour to make a batch of soup and another hour or so to hand it out, I figured it was worth trying.”
Connie had lived in Winchester for two years before starting the soup kitchen. The pivotal moment that made her start? “I am always in awe when I walk through Winchester, it’s a really beautiful city. It was October time, so it was raining heavily. I realised I was lucky to be living in such a wonderful city but that there were other people who weren’t and I just thought I should be doing something about it.”
Connie spoke to one homeless man and offered him some change, he refused to take her money, so she rolled him a cigarette and had a chat with him. “He wasn’t much older than us, he was telling me about his upbringing. He had an abusive dad and had a drug problem from an early age because of it.” The man was in Southampton with work but was laid off, he made his way to Winchester as people tend to give more money and there is more shelter.
Credit: Wikimedia. Homeless people find shelter in Winchester shop entrances.
Connie has spent the past year organising and funding the soup kitchen herself, she advertised it on the university webpage and within days received over 100 responses from people interested in volunteering. Although the soup kitchen runs like a society, the university have no interest in being apart of the organisation. “The university see it as unsafe so it’s all organised over Facebook, they also don’t seem thrilled with me still being a part of it, but I’m not too fussed.”
People who wish to volunteer can visit the non-profit organisation called The Winchester Hub, which works directly with the university and is used as a point of access for students who want to volunteer. “Lots of people are getting involved, we usually get around five to ten people a week helping to cook the soup and distribute it. Plus, one of the grocers at the market gives me a huge crate of vegetables for £10 so I can make lots of soup. It’s great to see the community helping each other.”
Credit: Wikimedia. 8,000 people sleep rough in London every night.
So, what can you do to help if you live in London? I asked Connie for some key tips on how to help the homeless in such a large city:
- Safety is so important, safety in numbers. Make sure there are at least four of you.
- Talk to local food banks, see what they’re already doing.
- Find out what food you can give out.
- Join an already formed soup kitchen.
- If you want to do it yourself, ask your university or soup kitchen if you can use their kitchens once a week.
- If soup kitchens are already covering days, organise yours on a day they aren’t.
If you find somebody sleeping rough call StreetLink to help them find safety.