Meet the team feeding homeless Glaswegians
It’s around 6.45pm on Monday evening, and a squad of volunteers has emerged with tables, bags and packets in hand, prepared to help feed and clothe Glasgow’s homeless people.
The set up feels like an organised military operation - within minutes the tables are set up, the meals are stacked up, and each volunteer is stood waiting to provide support.
Before them are a few dozen people, politely queuing in the centre of George Square. Each one will have their own story, their own experiences, their own reason for visiting the Kindness Homeless Street Team’s soup kitchen.
Not that it matters to the volunteers. They do not judge - in fact, anyone, homeless or not, is able to visit the soup kitchen.
As one volunteer states - “we don’t say no to anybody and everyone is welcome”. Among those who use the soup kitchen are parents (who sometimes bring their children) and even a couple of NHS workers.
Although to describe it as a soup kitchen would be an understatement. After stopping off at a hand sanitising station, users visit the hot food counter. Options this evening include stovies and potatoes and beans.
After that it is on to the cold food counter, where people can stock up on some essentials, including toiletries. At the next table is donated clothes - especially important as temperatures continue to drop.
After that comes the tea and coffee station, a table for food parcels, and then a barber.
‘They have the best banter’
The Kindness Homeless Street Team formed around two years ago - one of a number of services helping Glasgow’s homeless. However, when lockdown hit, a number of organisations were forced to cut back. This was when the George Square operation became more important than ever - Glasgow’s homeless still needed food, clothing and social interaction.
Lucy Greave, one of around a dozen volunteers helping out this evening, was approached by founder Laura McSorley to help out. She needed experienced volunteers, and Lucy, a long-time member of another service which helps Glasgow’s homeless, was a perfect fit. She has now been helping out for around a year.
“I just wanted to help,” said Lucy. “I’ve got the time - so why not give the time to someone else? When I go out I like seeing the guys, catching up, seeing how they are and hearing their stories. They have the best banter.
“I love helping them, making sure they have a hot meal.”
Jennifer MacDonald joined at the same time, also wanting to continue to help people during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I love meeting the guys, the banter,” she said. “We’ve got really pally with them. It’s always good to have a bit of banter.”
Being homeless, in a hostel or in accommodation without food and drink facilities are not the only reasons people use the soup kitchen.
Some are lonely.
“There are a lot of people who live on their own and come here, not just for something to eat, but for chat,” adds Lucy. “For a wee bit of banter, for interaction with other people that they didn’t get during lockdown.
“If we didn’t see a face one week to the next, I’d worry about where they are and how they are. I’d see them the following week and say how glad I am to see them. It’s getting that personal interaction with them.”
The Kindness Homeless Street Team’s soup kitchen hit the headlines earlier this year, after a picture was shared showing hundreds of people queuing up in the snow.
Lucy describes the service as “always busy”.
“Last winter it was really busy, but, then again, we were in lockdown,” she said. “We did expect it to be a bit busier. People need warm clothing. So they come for hats, scarves, stuff to keep them warm.”
The picture is not the only reason the team’s profile has risen in the last few months.
Laura, the founder, won the Lorraine Kindness Award at the recent Women of the Year awards.
“It’s a total team thing, and it just goes to show how big a team we’ve built and the relationships we’ve built,” said Jennifer.
“That was a complete secret to Laura. She didn’t have a clue. We all knew. We never said a single thing to her so she was slightly shocked.”
How people are donating
People are encouraged to pop into the team’s London Road home - open 11am-2pm - and donate items of clothing, food, toiletries and more.
People also donate money. As we are speaking, Lucy is handed a £20 note. These donations are used to purchase supermarket vouchers, which can be given to people who are struggling.
But it is not just Glasgow’s people who help. The city’s businesses also do their part.
Greggs stores donate leftover items, food that is still on their shelves at the end of the day, including sausage rolls and cakes.
Fruit and vegetables from supermarkets also means that there are healthy options.
The soup kitchen is operated three times a week - although those who need help can also visit the team’s base on London Road.
You can find out more about the Kindness Homeless Street Team on their Facebook page.