City centre Salvation Army serves 15,000 meals to vulnerable
published on 17 Jan 2022
More than 15,000 meals have been served to the homeless and vulnerable at a city centre Salvation Army since the start of the pandemic.
The Leeds Central Corps (church) saw a 650 per cent increase in demand for support during 2020/21. They also gave toys to approximately 1,300 children as part of this year’s Christmas Present Appeal.
With the Nile Street building closed during the height of the pandemic due to government restrictions, Corps officers Majors Cliff and Joy Allchin and their small team handed meals out at the door, often serving up to 100 people a day, including people who are homeless and families that had fallen on hard times.
It was thanks to generous donations from local businesses and members of the public that they were able to fulfil the increased need, while working closely with other charities and organisations to ensure the community were well served.
Major Joy said: “Between March 2020 and November 2021 we served 15,000 hot meals, when pre-pandemic in an average year we’d serve about 2,000.
“Many were people who are homeless, often those with no recourse to public funds. There were families who had never had to ask for help before, but were clearly desperate, and had nowhere else to go.”
At a recent drop-in, one man, 30, explained what The Salvation Army means to him.
He said: “I had been sleeping on the streets and The Salvation Army was the first place I came to for help. I don’t know where I would be without them.
“It wasn’t just for the food, but for the social side of it, and it makes me feel calm being here. It really helps with my mental health.”
Another, who has been sleeping on the streets after he lost his job, said: “The Salvation Army are the only people who do not discriminate. They always treat people equally, I always feel welcome here.”
Supported by a dedicated team of unflappable volunteers and staff, including cook Sarah who can takes preparing 90 meals in her stride, they will also hand out warm clothes, toiletries and sleeping bags to those who need it.
Joy said: “Many people come to just talk and socialise with others, which for their mental health is one of the most important things. We sit with them and get to know their stories. I can tell people’s individual needs now, whether they are vegetarians, or if there’s something they won’t eat.”
On Tuesdays they provide food parcels and open the café for people who are elderly, isolated and lonely to enjoy a cup of tea, a natter or a few games. Joy and Cliff will also drop parcels off to people who can’t make it to the church building.
Major Cliff said: “The stories of poverty we come across are shocking, there are some sad stories of people who are really struggling. We are always grateful for the generosity of the community whose donations mean we’ve been able to help desperate families with food parcels, and in one case, arranging a trip away for a family that had never been on holiday before.”
Christmas proved to be even busier with toys provided for approximately 1,300 children. The Corps gave out around 90 gifts to mums, provided 120 food parcels and £20 supermarket vouchers to 180 people.
Around 60 rough sleepers were also given a goody bag.
The Corps is open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11.30am. For more information click here