This month’s ‘community focus’ concentrates on an Essex Charity helping thousands of homeless people every single month. Friends of Essex & London Homeless are a local charity driven by one single goal: “to do their part in making the world a better place for all.” They are a small group made up of volunteers who travel to central London every Wednesday evening to set up a ‘pop up’ soup kitchen at Charing Cross, which ensures hundreds of homeless receive a hot meal. Not only do they devote their time in London, but they have a second soup kitchen in Thurrock which is open every Friday evening feeding families on low income as well as the homeless. Their charity reaches across Havering and Barking and Dagenham offering clothes, toiletries, and support to those who are directed to them through word of mouth or other support services.

Jon Cruddas’s Havering Coordinator Fay Hough recently met with Co-Founder, CEO and Trustee Steven Stuart to find out more about the charity.

What impact does your charity have on the local community?

“We refer to ourselves as ‘first relief’, which means if someone comes to our soup kitchen or reaches out to our charity, we firstly offer them a hot meal. We then offer clothing, toiletries, and always look to help above and beyond. Our soup kitchen at Charing Cross sees us concentrating mostly on feeding the homeless, whereas with our soup kitchen in Thurrock and those who reach out to us across Barking, Dagenham and Havering sees us helping low income families more. There is no judgement on our part. If we need to help an individual who is asking for drug rehabilitation, then we will. We see ourselves as their first step towards getting the help they need, and we will always hand over to services with a better skill set then us to ensure the individual can access that help professionally.”

How are you funded?

“We run purely on donations. We will put announcements out across our social media platforms about items we need and ask if anyone in the community can help? We also approach local businesses to see if any of them would be happy to sponsor our charity or donate. We couldn’t run without the support from the local community and rely on all donations they make whether that be clothes, food, items off our Amazon wish list or money. If anyone across the community would like to donate, they can do so by visiting our website.”

What are your aspirations for the future?

“We have big aspirations, but this doesn’t mean they can’t be achieved. We would like our charity to grow to the point where at 6pm every day of the year, a soup kitchen is running across the UK to help those who need it most. To do this we need more funding, we need a building to operate from and need the equipment. It’s not going to happen overnight, but we never expected to of grown as much as we already have and believe the sky is the limit. We want to help those most vulnerable have a better quality of life, and we aim to do just that on a widespread scale.”

If you would like to donate to Friends of Essex and London Homeless please click HERE or head over to their Facebook page to find out how you can get involved.

Click HERE to watch a small video of the charity.