By Kamile Banyte
Two local women who have organised their own homeless kitchen have seen the number of rough sleepers who attend their feed increase from 15 to over 90.
Ang & Shells City Square homeless feed kitchen is made up of a small team of volunteers.
They use donated ingredients to cook and serve fresh hot meals to dozens of homeless people in Leeds city centre every Tuesday from 6:30pm.
The team also gather donated clothes, tents and toiletries from the public which they hand out to those in desperate need.
One of the founders of the kitchen- Michelle Weston, 47 from Beeston said a Facebook post which was asking for volunteers for a homeless charity inspired her to organise her own kitchen.
“I saw a Facebook post asking for volunteers to help out and feed the homeless. I’ve joined the group and volunteered every week but after a while I wanted to cook my own fresh meals and realised no one was being fed on Tuesday nights.
“So, my friend Angela and I decided we would create our own kitchen. And we’ve been loving it ever since.”
Angela Gill, 56, Gipson view, Wortley, alongside Angela dedicates her time in collecting donations from the public and major firms such as Greggs and Macro, as well as cooking the meals.
Angela said: “We get fantastic donations from many locals and especially Greggs. I asked my son for a cooker and a table for Christmas which he kindly bought and after a couple of donations from kind people we got the kitchen running in January 2016.
“Michelle and I meal prep some food on Monday night and are in our kitchens by 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning cooking pasta bakes and whatever else is on the menu for that week.”
Michelle and Angela explain how the kitchen started and their dreams for their homeless feed.
According to a new analysis by the housing charity Shelter, at least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain.
This amounts to a year-on-year increase of 13,000, a 4% rise.
Shelter suggests that nationally one in 200 people are homeless, and the numbers are more likely to be an underestimate of the problem.
This is because they do not capture people who experience “hidden” homelessness, for example those living insecurely in sheds or cars.
Fact file of homelessness
- Across Yorkshire and the Humber, 1 in 962 people are homeless
- Leeds which has a population of 784,846 has a total of 61 people in temporary accommodation and 28 rough sleepers
- The number of homeless people in the Leeds region has risen by 12% since 2017
- An estimated 320,000 people are homeless- 13,000 more than last year
- At least 49 homeless people died in Leeds in 2018- an increase of almost 60% in five years
- An estimated 597 deaths in 2017 of homeless people in England and Wales- a rise of 24% since 2013
A new strategy to deal with homelessness and rough sleeping is the focus of a Leeds City Council campaign.
Leeds Housing options deal with around 15,000 households each year, and in the last year helped almost a thousand cases avert the threat of homelessness.
A dedicated Ang & Shells homeless kitchen volunteer, Sarah Deurose, 32, Crossgates said: “I’ve been volunteering for over a year and from the start the kitchen has been busy every week.
“I think we need to raise awareness and the government needs to realise how much homelessness there is. If government came and helped and experienced it themselves, or even a night on streets themselves. There are celebrities who have done it, it can be done and then maybe they would think twice and actually give money to those who need it.”
The government is aiming to end rough sleeping by 2027 after pledges of £100 million funding.
If you would like to volunteer or donate to Ang & Shells City Square homeless kitchen, please visit their Facebook page https://en-gb.facebook.com/angandshellsfeedcitysquare/.