“You can make it through if you stick together and support each other” - Halifax project helping feed those in need

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A homeless project is helping feed hundreds of people in Halifax during the coronavirus crisis.

Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen opened in January last year and runs a kitchen in the town centre every Sunday serving meals and handing out food, toiletries and sometimes clothes to take away.

The coronavirus outbreak means the kitchen has had to be closed for now, but the volunteers who run the project have begun delivering food to those in need across the town.

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Nicola Freemantle, from the project, said: “We were already feeding about 30 families a week from our mini foodbank, and the surplus we’ve got from places like Marks and Spencers, Aldi and Greggs, who support us with their waste products they would normally bin but are still in date.

Nicola Freemantle from Halifax Homeless and Community KitchenNicola Freemantle from Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen
Nicola Freemantle from Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen

“We’ve been working with certain schools in Halifax for about a year now.

“But since coronavirus kicked off and everyone’s been isolated or ill, we’ve taken on a massive amount of referrals.

“Some are from social services, some are Young Carers Service, intervention teams, Sure Start, Mothershare, Calderdale Lighthouse, Focus4Hope.

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“We’ve worked with all those along with mums and dads who have messaged us privately through Facebook and said ‘I’m really struggling, I haven’t got any money’ or ‘I can’t get out’ or they don’t have anyone to help them.

Some of the food being donated by Halifax Homeless and Community KitchenSome of the food being donated by Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen
Some of the food being donated by Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen

“So we’ve been dropping off food bags and parcels for the last three weeks.

“We’re up to around 85 families now that we’re dropping off to, over 300 people we’ve helped feed.

“It’s all funded by us, and all voluntary. It’s been really busy.”

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Nicola says the people being helped by the project are from across the town, from Elland to Illingworth, and are given bags including cereal, milk, meat, bread, beans, tea, coffee, sugar, fruit and veg, and tinned goods so they can make meals.

“A lot of them are on benefits, which is only once-a-month, and when it came to lockdown, a lot of them didn’t have the money to go out and stockpile,” Nicola said.

“A lot of the people we help have disabilities or a family member that’s got a disability, so they’re high risk, so they’re isolating for 12 weeks as they’ve been told.

“Maybe their kids or they themselves have got symptoms, they haven’t got the transport, they can’t queue in line.

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“Some of them deal with anxiety and mental health problems so it’s hard for them to deal with this type of thing. They’re already stressed, upset and worried and then there’s the added pressure of this.

“So for us to drop the parcels off takes that pressure off them. And we’ve had some lovely messages and feedback from mums.

“One mum said to me ‘thank you so much for the bag, I’ve not eaten for four days, I’ve fed the kids only on very minimal stuff, I didn’t know what I was going to feed them today because we’ve run out of food but now I can give them meals all week’.

“That message was amazing. I just sat in the car and cried because I just thought ‘that’s what it’s about’.

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“A lot of these people we can continue to support. It’s a weekly thing for a lot of them so they know they will continue to be supported.

“We’ve started work so that we can support them after all this, and help them with benefits and getting them into work.

“A lot of these people now trust us to help them so it’s nice that when it’s all over we can go round to their house, sit and have a cuppa with them, properly meet them rather than waving through windows, and help them with their mental health or whatever they need.”

Nicola says it’s vital that services like this exist to help people in need amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I just want to help people,” she said. “I’ve been in this situation where I didn’t have a lot, I was struggling, and I was in a very vulnerable place in my life.”I didn’t have the support that I want to give these people now. I want to make sure they’re fed.

“Coming together to make sure these people are helped is vitally important.

“That’s what community is about for me. You should come together and you should help each other in a time of need.

“I want to be their friend and I want to help them, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

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“A lot of the people we see sadly are single mums, and they’re lonely. They don’t know where to turn, they haven’t got family in the area.

“I was like that, that was me at one point and I want to show them that there is a way to get out of it.

“Trust and rely on people like us because you can make it through if you stick together and support each other.

“To me, it’s massively important to go out and do this every day.

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“I’m probably putting myself and my household at risk but I’m taking all the precautions I need to.

“I just couldn’t not do it. It’s in my soul and heart.

“When you get these messages from people crying out for help and haven’t got help elsewhere, I couldn’t sleep if I didn’t help them.”

If you need help from Halifax Homeless and Community Kitchen, or would like to donate money or supplies, visit their Facebook page or email [email protected].

If anyone in your family or community is doing something to help the effort against coronavirus, we want to know about it.
If you think their efforts should be highlighted, tell us about them by emailing [email protected] or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.

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