A soup kitchen feeding the homeless and hungry in central London has issued an urgent appeal for financial help after experiencing its busiest day ever where they struggled to serve a long queue of people while maintaining social distancing to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Sign on soup kitchen fence.
The Soup Kitchen has been careful to ensure people stand apart in the long queue to be fed.

Alex Brown the director of the long running Soup Kitchen at the back of the American International Church on Tottenham Court Road told Fitzrovia News they had fed 149 people in a single lunchtime on Wednesday 1 April.

“It’s tough at the moment, it really is. People are more desperate now than I’ve ever seen them,” he said.

“With all of the closures, our numbers have increased even more and so many of them are new faces. We’ve seen the extremely young — those aged 18 to 21 — and many pensioners. We’ve seen people come in who obviously haven’t been sleeping rough very long and some who look like they’re right on the cusp of homelessness.

“We had 149 people in for a hot meal today, which was a new record for us, unfortunately, but we fed them all, one by one,” he said.

During the period October to December 2019 outreach teams recorded 3,637 individuals sleeping rough across London — an 11 percent increase on the previous year.

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on the services available for rough sleepers, with many places forced to close or operate in a restricted way. 

Now the staff at the Soup Kitchen have to manage the huge queue of people and have put up signs to keep people two metres apart as they wait along Whitfield Street.

“Our only aim right now is to make sure we can feed people in a safe and sustainable manner. We are, quite literally, one of the last places in Central London that are still feeding the homeless and vulnerable every day and we need to make sure we can continue that,” says Brown. 

Usually the Kitchen opens and people can come in and sit down, have a meal, socialise, and get some clean clothes. But now they have to control how many people they let in and keep people apart.

“We’ve gone to a takeaway system for our friends, so they come in initially and get a brown bag containing hot soup, a sandwich, porridge, a piece of fruit and a snack bar. After that, they’re able to grab a hot lunch and often times, we’ll be able to give them a meal that they can eat later, for dinner.”

Many of the volunteers who help come from the companies working in the area. But now that people are working from home or laid off the Kitchen has to operate with a small group of staff.

“Typically, those companies donate to us based on the number of hours that their employees are here. No volunteers mean no donations, so we’ll suffer a huge shortfall this year,” he says.

He issued an urgent appeal for money to make sure that they can continue to meet the ever increasing demand on their service.

“The one thing we need at the moment, is financial help to make sure we can continue to feed and help so many,” he said. 

You can donate to the Soup Kitchen by PayPal, Just Giving, or Virgin Money Giving by visiting the Soup Kitchen website.