CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

A moveable feast for the ‘new homeless’

14 May, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Queuing for food in Trafalgar Square

FEEDING rough sleepers and the homeless can be a tricky affair.

St Patrick’s Church was so successful at providing meals for the homeless in Soho Square – with the help of hotels and the Connaught – that a few local residents felt they were losing their use of the gardens in the square and complained to Westminster Council.

As one of the oldest churches in London – it was consecrated in 1792 and one of the capital’s major Catholic churches with large congregations – St Patrick’s has no doubt had a few awkward moments.

Inevitably a muddled compromise was reached – with St Patrick’s limiting its meals to breakfast at 11am every day: a hot meal, drink and bag of sweets, energy drinks etc.

Father Alexander Sherbrooke. Photo: stpatricksoho.org

Most of its meals are prepared in industrial-sized kitchens in the basement or catacombs of the famous church under the watchful eye of the parish priest Father Alexander Sherbrooke and a fellow congregant, Samantha Flanagan.

They, I am told, have the skill and energy to run any big kitchen in a West End restaurant.

After their breakfast, the homeless, whose numbers have swelled since lockdown, move to Trafalgar Square where at 1 o’clock they are served further refreshments along with another bag of drinks and snacks. These are provided by parish priests and volunteers from Farm Street church in Mayfair and other local churches.

But who are the “new homeless”?

It seems that scores, if not hundreds, of casual staff lost their jobs and accommodation at one stroke at the closure of cafés and restaurants in the lockdown not only in the West End but also in the suburbs.

Since the 1 o’clock meals started in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery a few weeks ago, the queues for food have grown daily to more than 150 as more and more homeless arrive from the West End as well as the neighbouring boroughs and the suburbs.

Another casualty of today’s crisis.

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