Save Our Soup Kitchen Stall From Being Torn Down
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For over five years, grassroot volunteer groups have taken to Haymarket, Norwich, in the evenings to feed the homeless, elderly and vulnerable - no questions asked. We ensure there is a volunteer group handing out hot meals, toiletries, sleeping bags, and clothes, seven days a week so that nobody has to go hungry.
We serve from a stall that is home to a business during the day. The stall is sturdy, covered, and spacious enough for us to lay out hot meals and prepare drinks for up to eighty guests a night.
The business owner has handed in his notice and will cease trading at the end of January. Without advising any of the four grassroots groups that use the stall for such vital work, the council has confirmed to the press that the stall is to be demolished, due to the stall being condemned as unsafe, which is frankly news to all of us that use the stall.
Having made numerous attempts to speak with the council and BID, we are all at a loss as to what happens next. We are receiving mixed messages from different sources - some saying the stall will remain, some saying it is unsafe (?), and some just refusing to answer questions at all. What we would really like is to be listened to and considered when these decisions are made. Five years is a long time for a soup kitchen to be in operation when you're considered as a temporary sticking plaster, and with numbers going up every year, it is clear we are a vital service for the people that rely on us.
(By the way, if the stall is condemned as unsafe, then why allow trade to continue there for the rest of the month? Just saying.)
For anyone suggesting we use fold out tables that the council have allegedly offered us, let me advise you now the reasons for which this is unacceptable;
*We currently have a covered stall, and we go out WHATEVER the weather. Imagine serving food and hot drinks for an hour in the rain without a roof every night - the food would go cold and be ruined within seconds.
*The elderly and infirm use the stall to lean against as they collect their food. Some of our guests are on crutches. These people are going to struggle when confronted with food collection and trying to walk with a stick/crutches.
*General safety and common sense. Boiling hot water from dispensers, multiple pots and pans of hot food, plus a rickety fold out table... It's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, and the soup kitchen groups get closed down immediately.
*Community. The stall isn't just a stall. It's where we rock up and do our thing and chat with our friends, and show that they're loved and respected and remembered. Do you think taking that away and having us use a couple of unsafe tables promotes a message of respect? It does not.
We, the soup kitchen groups, are not only happy to pay for repairs to the stall but to maintain that upkeep and even decorate it to bring it more into keeping with its surroundings. The stall is a piece of Norwich history that still serves a purpose - perhaps more important now than ever.
Let's work together as a community to bring the stall on Haymarket up to date and use it not just for soup kitchens in the evening, but in the daytime for pop up stalls and community causes too.
We don't want to lose our very beloved stall and risk not being able to help those that desperately need us.
Thank you for reading, and please, please share.
From all at the grassroot soup kitchen groups of Norwich. x
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