Beki Winter, Outreach Manager
Last Monday evening, around 45 individuals gave up their evening to come to The Connection to talk/hear about the issues around the provision of free food on the Strand. There have been instances of anti-social behaviour, road traffic accidents and damage to buildings due to the crowds congregating for free food at the Strand between Rymans and Zimbabwe House. The meeting was attending by a good cross section of representatives including local residents, businesses, the police, groups regularly serving food on the Strand, homeless agencies and the council.
Some people took advantage of a pre-meeting tour conducted by the fundraising ladies who really helped to get the message across that there is provision in Westminster for homeless people as well inform people of the extent of services and support that we offer.
The meeting was chaired by Jeremy Swain who facilitated the session ensuring everyone’s point of view was heard. Two representatives from businesses in the Charing Cross underpass outlined the extent of the problem of homelessness related anti-social behaviour by describing in detail the harassment, urination and defecation, litter etc that they face on a daily basis. Colin Glover, The Connection’s Chief Executive, later acknowledged our own responsibility in tackling this. The representatives from the Zimbabwe Embassy were most concerned about the risk to themselves of a terrorist act due to the number of abandoned rubbish bags left after the soup runs. Some soup run providers raised concerns about the lack of services in the borough but Nik Ward and I were able to dispel these beliefs
Over all a very positive meeting that led to more positive interactions after the meeting; I’ll be taking some people out on the streets soon to see for themselves the work we do and several soup run providers were in discussions about where else they might be useful.
There’s still a lot more work to do and I’ll be part of a working group to keep tackling this. Big thanks to Leslie & Richard for excellent food and drinks and to the fundraising team for the tours.