Charity reports growing numbers need soup kitchen help

On Thursday night, around 170 of Croydon’s not-so-great-and-good sat down in the Fairfield Halls to indulge themselves in some free nosh and a few glasses of cheap wine at the Mayor’s Banquet.

No £15,000 banquets for the dozens of people who rely on the Croydon Nightwatch soup run

No £15,000 banquets for the dozens of people who rely on the Croydon Nightwatch soup run

Meanwhile, across the road in Queen’s Gardens, another 50-or-so Croydon residents were forced to queue at a local charity’s nightly soup kitchen for what for many of them will have been their one hot meal of the day.

The Labour party in Croydon had suggested, many months ago in one of its many easily forgotten “alternative budgets”, that it would do away with expensive banquets and many of the self-serving Trumptonesque fripperies of civic ceremonials, the tricorn hats and gowns, which are so beloved of some of the more self-important members of the local council.

But on Thursday night, while the charity Nightwatch was across the road helping the borough’s poor and homeless, Croydon’s Labour councillors – and many Tory councillors, too – had their snouts in the trough, at an estimated cost of £15,000.

According to Nightwatch’s annual report, published last week, they are now having to cater for more than 100 people in Queen’s Gardens on their weekly food parcel run on Sundays.

Jad Adams, the chairman of the charity, says in his report, “We reached a record we never wanted to see this year, for the first time the number of people in the gardens exceeded 100 on a Sunday night. This is in keeping with a generally upward trend in numbers.

“A hundred was a high point, normally we see fewer, the average over the year was 84. Fewer are seen on weekdays – more like half that. This is mainly because we give out food parcels on Sundays.”

Nightwatch’s findings have been submitted as evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Food Poverty. The charity might also want to invite along the new Mayor of Croydon, or the banqueting MP for Lambeth South, or even the Leader of the Council, Tony Newman, to hand out cups of hot soup one November evening, so that they can see what they missed when they were enjoying their sumptuous meal in the comfort of the Fairfield Halls.

How the number of people attending Nightwatch's soup run has increased. There has been a notable spike in 2012 and 2013

How the number of people attending Nightwatch’s soup run has increased. There has been a notable spike in 2012 and 2013

With the money spent on the Mayor’s Banquet in one night, Nightwatch could operate with the borough’s poor and vulnerable every night of the week for about three months.

Croydon Labour claim that the banquet was staged at no cost to the Council Tax-payers, because it was sponsored by two of the council’s contractors, including new IT suppliers Crapita. So there appears to be no concern that such largesse might influence the councillors or the council officials in their deliberations on the awarding of future contracts.

Some of those attending the sumptuous banquet endeavoured to assuage their consciences by taking along as a guest some deserving member of their local community. None seem to have considered inviting to the banquet the hard-working Nightwatch volunteers and a couple of dozen of their soup kitchen’s hungry clients, some of whom have young children.

“A junket’s a junket,” was how one one veteran observer of Croydon council matters described the banquet quite pithily.

The high numbers attending the soup run reflects the true state of the economy, as many of those seeking Nightwatch’s help simply cannot afford to pay their rent and to feed themselves or their family.

In his annual report, Nightwatch’s Adams says, “The large numbers we are seeing are due to two factors: eastern Europeans coming looking for work and an increasing impoverishment in society which means that we see people who otherwise would not have come on a soup run. Our range of clients is now homeless, near-homeless, former homeless and otherwise generally vulnerable people.

“In these difficult times, quite a number of the people we see have somewhere to live and are working but don’t have enough money to live on, so come to us for food.”


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4 Responses to Charity reports growing numbers need soup kitchen help

  1. I walked through Queens Garden the other night and as it happened the “snack wagon” was just turning up.
    Now there were people who you could clearly see were down on their luck…to whom I am sure this service is targeted. For those I have no problems at all, they clearly need help.
    Then there was a group of lads (probably about twenty) who clearly couldn’t believe their luck. They were dressed from top to toe in designer clothes, all very clean and smart. Now I just wondered how they could afford such luxuries?… At a guess Id say they save money on buying food which gives them all that extra money to but their posh clothes.
    I think its a disgrace that these people are allowed within a mad mile of the place. I find it even more daft that those who take the trouble to help those less fortunate, do not shoo these scavengers off.

    • Key phrase here is “at a guess”. You don’t actually know what are the circumstances of the people you observed, you didn’t speak to them, nor did you speak to the volunteers, who have much experience and training in dealing with clients.

      So not a great basis on which to make a judgement then.

    • Jad Adams says:

      We have been asked to post this comment on behalf of Jad Adams, chairman of Nightwatch

      It is certainly the case that all services that are free at the point of delivery are open to abuse by people who don’t really need them – as those who work in the police, fire and national health service know very well from the number of nuisance calls and timewasters they have to deal with.

      In providing a free service Nightwatch volunteers aim to help those not otherwise helped by the system, who have been moved from one office to another in the system without getting anywhere because they don’t qualify.

      With Nightwatch, you don’t have to fill in any forms. This brings with it the danger of people coming who don’t really need help but there aren’t very many of them and they don’t stay for long. They are recognised by Nightwatch volunteers and by regular attenders.

      Volunteers are experienced and do try to ration supplies to help the neediest. A word of warning, however: things may not be as they seem; we try to help people with clothing and toiletries so they do not look like the stigmatised ‘homeless person’ but just like everyone else. Someone can be smartly dressed and even have a job, but they can’t afford both to pay their rent and buy sufficient food, so they come to us on days when they run out.

  2. Youre right I didn’t talk to them. However it did not take a genius to see that they were wearing designer clothes. All were very clean and smart. NONE looked under nourished.
    The difference between them and those that were clearly in need of help was like chalk and cheese.
    Hide behind my “lack of proof” if you will, but I am certain these were not people struggling in life, certainly not hungry and without a doubt they were using this service to gain free food to free up their money to spend on luxuries.
    Theres no point being disregarding of views such as mine. I am as charitable as the next person and at no stage have I said it is wrong to help those who need it. It is wrong that these free loaders spoil things for those in genuine need. Not only that, but they take away resources that could be better spent elsewhere. I KNOW that I am right on this as would any other right minded person who witnessed what I did.
    It may be a politically incorrect opinion but its one I stand by and one that I know many other do as well.
    On a final note, if they were giving away mobile phone top up cards at these places, the freeloaders would be at the front of the queue for those as well. This would then have people like yourselves saying that these young men are so poor that they cant even afford a phone of their
    own !!!!
    You need to get a grip of the reality of what is going on. One of the main reasons more people are using food banks is because more of them are available and subsequently those that abuse the system see this as a further way in which they can continue their lives as freeloaders. An inconvenient truth to you maybe, but never the less it is true.

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