Help The Hungry: Campaign steps up to support homeless with hot meals

Our Christmas appeal steps in to save the operations of a London charity feeding capital’s homeless population, Vincent Wood reports

Monday 14 December 2020 12:29
<p>Volunteers from the Hare Krishna movement in Lincoln’s Inn Fields to help feed people in need during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic</p>

Volunteers from the Hare Krishna movement in Lincoln’s Inn Fields to help feed people in need during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic

On a bitterly cold night our Help The Hungry campaign saw meals from our appeal partner With Compassion delivered to the Radha-Krishna Temple, home of the UK’s Hare Krishna movement, who then distributed the food to those in need.

The faith group has been fighting hunger among the capital’s homeless population for more than 15 years – and was helped by our campaign’s offering after Covid restrictions forced its kitchen to temporarily close.

Volunteers were joined by The Independent’s largest shareholder Evgeny Lebedev to offer up plates of vegetable curry and vegan cupcakes to homeless people, with steam billowing out from the generous helpings of warm rice into the night air ahead of another frosty London evening.

In keeping with the Hare Krishna movement’s beliefs, the vegetarian food was blessed before being handed out to the queues in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

There are fears of surging homelessness in the capital, with the number of people reported to be sleeping rough from April to June almost doubling year on year during the first lockdown period, according to charity Homeless Link.

The number of rough sleepers brought to the attention of the charity through its StreetLink service rose from 6,899 to 12,134 across the period, while July to September also saw a 28 per cent increase in reports of homelessness.

The StreetLink service allows members of the public to call for support for rough sleepers.

One recipient of the food at Lincoln’s Inn Fields said he had been drawn over by the “incredible aroma” of the dishes on offer, while another said his day was “all the better” for seeing those who had given up their time to provide the hot meals.

Rahul Singh, who has served meals to the city’s homeless for seven years, said the temple’s Food for Life volunteers were forced to rapidly adapt when the first coronavirus lockdown came in earlier this year. The restaurant that cooked food for homeless people closed; vulnerable volunteers were shielding and local officials turned off fresh water taps used by rough sleepers.

However, he added that while the strains of winter and the pandemic put more people at risk of homelessness, the number of charities stepping up to help them – including our appeal partners With Compassion and The Felix Project – means more rough sleepers can be supported.

He told The Independent: “I think the winter this year is compounded by the issue of Covid where the number of homeless people has increased, but thankfully there has been a lot of time since the first lockdown so there are a lot more charities that are serving food so that way the burden is shared.” 

Welcoming our food gift, made possible by donations to our campaign from Independent readers, he added: “It was freshly made, it was hot and it was absolutely delicious.”

Our Help The Hungry campaign has partnered up with one of the UK’s largest food redistribution charities, The Felix Project, which uses an army of volunteers to save high-quality food destined for the dustbin and get it to those in need.

Nutritious ingredients from the charity are then handed over to the team at With Compassion, who cook up 1,000 free meals a day to offer people across London the sustenance and the comfort that comes with healthy, delicious food.

This November and December we will be delivering food directly to 1,000 people a day through our partner With Compassion. Please donate here to help us do all we can to ensure no one goes hungry this Christmas. 

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