Palace fans’ donations help homeless charity cook up hope

Homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support, together with Crystal Palace FC and their charity, the Palace for Life Foundation, are launching a 12-week cooking course for people who are homeless in Croydon.

Residents and staff at a Evolve hostel serve up one of their meals

The Foundation has donated £1,000 to pay for the food that will be used during the course at an Evolve homeless hostel.

The socially distanced course is organised by a team of senior workers at Evolve’s supported housing service, and aims to teach vital life skills to former rough sleepers and people with complex needs living in supported housing.

Led by two Evolve homeless residents with culinary experience, the course seeks to introduce the fundamentals of cooking in a series of classes that will teach residents how to create healthy and creative meals.

As Croydon’s largest homelessness charity, Evolve Housing + Support has worked with the Palace for Life Foundation and the football club on a number of community projects. This latest and generous donation seeks to empower people in the community who have experienced high levels of unemployment of homelessness stemming from the pandemic.

The money donated to Evolve was from the Palace Kitchen, a project begun at the start of the coronavirus pandemic with the aim of providing healthy meals to vulnerable people forced to stay at home, families facing food poverty, homeless people and frontline NHS workers.

Thanks to the generosity of Palace fans, the Palace Kitchen was able to provide more than 15,000 meals to local individuals and support local organisations and projects such as the 12-week cooking course with Evolve.

“The trauma of being street homeless can have a terrible effect on a person, but often these people just need support and skills to become independent again,” said Alice Hainsworth, Evolve director of operations.

“Our high needs homelessness service in Croydon supports people who have experienced everything from chronic rough-sleeping, to domestic abuse and substance misuse. Many of them are in the process of building themselves up again and need help to achieve their ambitions.

“Cooking skills are an incredibly important part of learning to become independent again and can contribute to a change in living that can help break the cycle of homelessness.

“Classes like this can help provide people with a sense of confidence that can help put them back on the road to self-reliance. They can also provide valuable employable skills that can make that big difference. Project donations like this go beyond our regular food donations because they possess a lasting impact on the people that engage.”

Ryan Francis is a resident at the Evolve hostel who used his own professional background in catering to help teach others how to cook.

Ryan Francis passed on his cooking skills to others at the Evolve hostel during the course

“I was made homeless just after my father died, but my problems started 10 years earlier when my mother passed away. Before all that, I had a good way of life. I had kids, a nice house in the country, which I worked hard for, a car, a job as a chef and a beautiful wife,” he said.

“During my time at Evolve I’ve come a long way and events like today make a big difference. It’s brought a lot of people with difficult lives together and just to have that togetherness means a lot. Covid-19 has kept us cooped up in our rooms for a long time. It’s good to be with other people again.

“I feel like I can actually see a light at the end of my tunnel now.

“I’m coming to the end of my time in this place and I should be getting my own place soon. I know I’ve got no other choice but to make it work. I’ve got all the skills to make it, so just watch this space. That’s all I can say.”

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