The coronavirus pandemic has caused many to become reliant on soup kitchens, and an Ealing based charity has had to step up to feed the most vulnerable.
The Ealing Soup Kitchen has witnessed the impact that the virus has had on families and communities first-hand.
Before the pandemic their clients were made up of the homeless, but now families and professionals who have been made reductant or who cannot find enough work due to the pandemic have become reliant on the charity.
Andrew Mcleay, manager of the kitchen said: “We’ve got people wearing Gucci suits next to people who haven’t showered for months, it’s a strange thing to witness.”
In previous years the charity served meals to around 300 people a week, but demand has been so high this year that this figure has leapt to 400-500.
The charity is funded by donations, some of which come from local churches as well as the public.
Fortunately, Ealing Soup Kitchen has not been among the many charities who have seen a shortfall in donations due to cancelled fundraising events.
Mcleay said: “We are really lucky as a lot of charities have suffered, but we have found that through Covid, certainly where donations are concerned, people have stepped up and plugged those gaps.”
Many of the charity’s 200 volunteers had to shield in the first lockdown but the kitchen has seen a new wave of Londoners stepping in to help.
Mcleay said: “We now have had members of the community who previously would have been too busy volunteering so now it’s a different type of volunteer.
“People who previously worked in quite high up places have now found time to come and help us which is incredible.”
Pre-Covid, Ealing Soup Kitchen used to provide showers, hairdressers, doctors, foot care and even English lessons to those most in need.
However, due to social distancing restrictions and lockdowns, these essential services have had to stop.
Despite the closure of the services, the charity has never been busier due to the introduction of its home delivery service which first began at the first lockdown.
Mcleay said: “Since doing home deliveries we are seeing a lot of families needing us, we were serving 200 addresses in full lockdown it was a proper operation, some of them are now able to support themselves but quite a few are on the list still.”
Many of the volunteers have a personal connection to the charity and its work, and Mcleay experienced homelessness first hand after moving from Australia to London in 2008.
He said: “I was homeless when I first moved to London and one of the trustees who works alongside me was homeless for four years before joining the team, so we really do know what it is like to be poor.
“That spurs us to say that these are human beings. If you came somewhere yes you would accept what you were given, but does that mean that’s what you should be given? If we can get them better food shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we try?”
Despite hundreds of people using the service, the charity prides itself on its personal approach.
Mcleay said: “It’s those personal touches that really change people. If you get the food stuff right then it motivates people, if they can get through whatever they are going through, you’ve just made their day a little bit brighter even if its just a small thing.
“I think throughout lockdown we have seen so many examples where people have been going the extra mile for people across the board. As much as I hate Covid and what it has done to our society it has also shown the best of us too.”
For more information visit the Ealing Soup Kitchen’s website.