On Sunday 11th March approx. 30 people came along to an open meeting to talk about the homelessness situation in Bristol, what is being done to help and how people can get involved.
Philip McWilliams spoke about The Bristol Soup Run Trust – a charity set up in about 1980 whose aims are to ensure that, on every night of the year, food, advice and other essential supplies are made available, free of charge, to homeless and other needy people on the streets of Bristol.
Philip shared his many years’ of experience with the soup run and we learned that, while some of the clients are homeless and sleep on the streets, others may actually have accommodation of some kind. However, they are often people who lead chaotic lives, possibly down to loneliness, breakdown in relationships drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues. Clients turn up at the Soup Run for many reasons: hunger, isolation, companionship, advice. Whatever the reason, the volunteers are not there to judge: their job is to provide food, refreshment, a sleeping-bag, a pair of socks, toiletries, advice if needed and, above all, a friendly smile and a willing ear.
St Augustine’s Church in Downend got involved with the trust back in the 90’s and now provides 2 of the 20 teams who operate the 28 day, constant cycle of soup runs for the trust. Theirs operates on alternate Saturdays, nicknamed by some of the clients as ‘Super Saturday’ due to the large amount of food and supplies they are able to offer.
The Church’s teams have 62 ‘back office’ volunteers who, as part of a large rota, take turns to make rolls, heat soup, make cakes and even cook and fill a ‘hot box’ of burgers, pasties or sausages (it is Super Saturday after all!) ready for the ‘front line’ volunteers to take out and serve to those who turn up to the well-established meeting points in the centre of Bristol.
They also have a generously stocked store of essential supplies, such as blankets, sleeping bags, rain ponchos, toiletries, snacks, clothes, underwear etc that parishioners and friends kindly donate throughout the year when stocks run low and a small hard working team organise and prepare for every run – being as creative with the limited storage space as possible!
The soup run is a fantastic success story of the Parish. As Fr Frank Bermingham, Parish Priest, said, “This is a true example of Christianity in action.”
Phil concluded by saying that “If many do a little, something big can happen” proving that the willingness to help others, who, for whatever reason, are in need is alive and well in the community.
If you would like to find out more about the Bristol Soup Run trust, visit their new website at www.bristolsoupruntrust.org.uk