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Newsletter, July 2011 (Issue 184)

Down and Out on the Orwell

Even in our busy lives we can't help noticing the homeless people in Ipswich. We see them and acknowledge their presence whilst walking past, but never consider the reality of their situation. Here in our home town of Ipswich we harbour our very own soup kitchen.

It's run daily every evening at 8 pm on Tower Street. It isn't known to many of us but the churches in our area have a day each when they run the soup kitchen.

I work with the Salvation Army on a Wednesday at the soup kitchen. We are on a rota of seven groups and each group takes it in turn to go. The groups are of six people and you do your turn every seven weeks. We fill the mini-bus with donated sleeping bags, tents, clothes. toiletries and such things, and then soup, chips, tea and coffee and sandwiches. We prepare the food beforehand at 'headquarters' and then set out to give out food to the homeless.

Working at the soup kitchen has really opened my eyes to the world of the homeless. You don't recognise these people; they look like regular folk in large coats! None of them wants to be in the situation they're in and I get a real sense from most of them of wanting to change. Everyone using the soup kitchen is sincerely grateful for what we do, which makes every moment worthwhile. The unfortunate case of a man being kicked out by his wife with nowhere to go is just one of many stories I have heard. So we would give him a sleeping bag, socks and hot tea and send him on his way. And at least we know he's warm.

There isn't a lot I can personally do for every homeless person in Ipswich apart from making sure I'm there on my assigned Wednesday with my chips or soup. So naturally I was appalled to hear that certain places have banned soup kitchens in the hope that the homeless will move on to another town as they deem themselves too posh to help the needy. The people with the money to make a difference to these people's lives, won't do so. I appreciate the view that some adopt that the homeless are homeless because of themselves. In some cases, like the ones trying to combat addictions, this is true but they don't deserve to starve. But this isn't the case of many I have met at the soup kitchen. Many drink to drown the pain of their situation, which I agree isn't the best way of spending the little money they have, but the daily pain some people experience tells me there are much worse things to turn to than alcohol. There are the few that I have met who never turn up intoxicated but who have found themselves in a dire situation and are just pleased for us reliably being there. There are others facing time in the cells for defending themselves against racism, who just have had bad luck at being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The world seems to be against the homeless and often bad situations get worse by prejudices. To me, people who are victims of prejudices are the ones who need the most help as the world seems to be against them in a racially unbalanced society. Soup kitchens do so much good for people in need, even if it's just for a chat or to see the nurse who is also there on a Wednesday. Therefore banning soup kitchens will only take away a reliable source of food which isn't financially supported by the Government and isn't hurting anyone not involved. It is unnecessary to ban them. It is a worthwhile charity and, in my opinion, shows a great deal about the town it's in.

Francesca Smith

    Front cover of issue 184 Cover, issue 184

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