Friday, November 02, 2007


I've just received a vital email (lucky this one got through) alerting me to this.

Scroll down past the items about litter, chewing gum and public toilets and go to page 14.

It is proposed to prohibit the distribution of free refreshments on land designated by a London borough council. It would also be an offence to cause another person to distribute such refreshments. To be designated, land would have to be in the open air, and open to public access. Unlawful distribution of free food would be an offence, and would be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale. Exemptions would be included, for example, the distribution of refreshments to people taking part in sporting events or giving out free samples outside retail premises. Comments are welcome on the proposal to prohibit the distribution of free refreshments in designated areas.

In case you're having any problems getting to grips with the meaning behind this bureaucratic blurb, they're talking about banning soup kitchens for homeless people!

The deadline for registering comments is TODAY!

Please, please, please email

You can use this template below or create an email of your own.

Dear Oliver,

I'm writing concerning the proposal to restrict the distribution of 'free refreshments' as contained in the "Proposals for a tenth (London Local Authorities) Bill" for Deposit in November 2007.

I am concerned by the lack of recognition of the important role that organisations wishing to assist the homeless have. In addition to the premises-based services on offer to homeless people, such 'refreshments' or 'soup-kitchens' provide an essential supplementary service to homeless and destitute individuals. Soup kitchens enable distribution of food without expensive overheads.

I would urge London Councils to completely drop this proposed legislation, or to substantially modify it to allow services to continue without causing undue disturbance to nearby premises.

[Suggest your own solution - e.g. a license.]

[Give your own story about how you may have helped homeless people, or about people you know who help]

I look forward to your response. I can be contacted on the details below.

Yours sincerely,

[your name]

[your address]


Anonymous said...

evidently you have never been homeless,i have been street homeless,and at this moment i am hidden homeless,its my strong belief after using soup runs many many times,that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution, they can make you become inward looking,plus manypeople are not homeless, but its poverty that brings them there.everybody likes something for free dont they...
regards homeless chicken

Debi said...

Hi and welcome, homelesschicken. Hope your circumstances improve very soon.

As it happens I have been homeless though thankfully never on the streets. But I have had spells of sleeping on floors and when I was 7 months pregnant with our first child, the council repossessed the co-op properties where we were living. We were rehoused when our son was 3 weeks old.

All of which goes to show that there are many different ways of being homeless and many disparate people and needs.

For some, like yourself, soup runs could form part of the problem - for others I'm in no doubt that these and similar initiatives have saved lives.

Take care and hope there's a good future waiting round the corner for you.

Unknown said...

That is heinous and good for you for doing something about it. We have thousands of homeless people herem including street kids who have run away from abusive homes, if it weren't for soup kitchens many of them would just waste away. They know the soup kitchens are the one place they can actually get a meal if the day has yielded nothing.

Anonymous said...

Thankyou for kind comments,the first rule when using soup runs in London,is GRAB NOT,GET this i mean its the strongest who survive,some people get loads of stuff, some nothing at all,there are many times,the run runs out of soup,bread,sandwiches,tea,coffee,clothes,and mentioning clothes, you be surprised the amount of people who grab clothes,only to sell on their market stall the next day,this causes lots of friction,we call them the plastic homeless,they look the the part, but are you say homelessness comes in many shapes and forms, and their are lots of impostors as well
regards homeless chicken

Unknown said...

It is proprosed to prohibit the election of people better suited to crochet. It would be an offence to take any part in supporting these designated fuckwits.
The designated fuckwits should be left in the open air and open to public access and humiliation. They will be liable on summary conviction to, at the very least, hanging by the testicles.
Comments are welcome on the proposal to prohibit these fucktards and a well aimed kick to the designated area will be encouraged.

Debi said...

This is really informative. Thanks again, homelesschicken, for giving us the all-important view from the streets.

I think part of the problem is that desperation and poverty don't make for 'good manners' and it's always the weakest and most vulnerable that lose out.

Having said that, what's the alternative? To do away with the help all together just because there are some who take advantage and abuse the system?

My real anger comes from the angle that it's all right to give away food for business promotion eg at sports events and outside food shops. But do it for nothing except the wish to help people who have nothing, and you get criminalised and clobbered.

What does that say about our society???

Anonymous said...

the altenative,a good question,and im afraid its got my head scratching on this one, but here is something for you to chew on,the food which is given out at "HANDOUTS" which are called soup run,s,we see lots of stuff, coming out big supermarkets,surplus,end of sale date,etc..and is given to us free..
Should be a homeless hostel resident,okay housing benefit pays rent etc, but breakfast, dinner, if your lucky,and evening meal you have to pay for out of your benefit noney,there is a organisation called Fairshare, that collects,and delivers, free food as they call it, to hostels,and daycentres we use,and in all the hostels i know off, plus many other people who i know who stay in homeless hostels the free food deliverd, you have to pay for it, its not free! nominal charge its called,explotation i call it,these are so called Charitys for the homeless,Dont give your money to a begger, give it to a charity for the homeless,
Makes you kind of think don,t it
and as a footnote to that im not street begger,or charity fundraiser either,just homeless, but not braindead
regards homeless chicken

Steve Harmison said...

hey debi, cheers for posting this up on your blog- which is huge. Mine is a couple of days off 10,000 visits now. It's very slow on my virtual street, compared to this Albert Square.

And i appreciate reading homeless chicken's food for thought. Though, in my opinion, the failings of 'soup runs' are not a good enough reason to single a group out and ban their food supply. Particularly a group which includes some very vulnerable and isolated people.

Debi said...

homelesschicken - I really appreciate your contribution to this discussion. Thanks for coming back. The one thing you are definitely not is brain dead, that's clear!

I think I go back to my point earlier - that there are many reasons people can become homeless and it effects very different people and in different ways. So the more initiatives and options there are, the better.

There will always be some people for whom hostels won't be an option - for a variety of complex reasons. Personally, I've never had a problem giving to people on the streets when I have any spare cash - at least you know exactly where your money's going.

I get very angry when people object to begging. Everyone has the choice not to give but has no right to judge others.

There but for the grace of ...

Debi said...

Steve! Stevestevestevesteve!

How great to see you, honey! Your virtual street may be slow but I'm willing to bet you get out a lot more than I do.

Having said that - it would be great to see you some time ...

Anonymous said...

At this moment in time,have just left lincon,s inn fields,in central london,Handout at 7.30 [soup run] which was supllied by the Ba Ba people from a temple in Kensington,meal consisted or rice,and chicken stew,a banana,club biscuit,and tea,or coffee from many flasks,very soon afterwards came the Hari Krisna Handout,rice again,and veggie meal,orange juice,there may be one or two more yet to arrive..
Now looking at all the points raised say far,including my own,this is what i see tonight
at the handouts There are people who are street homeless, [hidden homeless]this could be sofa-surfers,hostels,squats,bed and breakfast,people who have got their own flats,but who have been homeless in the past,and know the runs,where they will be at what time, and who they are[ street knowledge]just like learning the knowledge taxi drivers have to know,and also people new to london this time of year,because christmas isn,t far away,and there isn,t much going on, as far as homelessness provision is concerned in the area they come from..So as you can see the soup runs not only feed people its also a meeting place to keep up with the street politics,as after a while,while living on the streets, you do get known,they is a VAST street net work,quicker than e-mail,post,phone,I seem to be getting away from the point here,
Soup runs for the homeless,
1. just who are the Homeless,you should ask yourselves,because many dont use them, most of us are getting our heads down, its a long day,18 hours is the average..
2.Change the name,Fighting poverty with food...soup runs...
3There is a soup run that comes out early every morning to us called the Simon community..tea, sandwiches,and they only go to people people like myself,living on the streets,at least there ain,t no pushing,and shoving,caucse we respect each other,All in the same Boat..
just thoughts during day got lots of time to think,if nothing else

Debi said...

Keep thinking, hc. And keep communicating. What you are saying is really important and people need to listen.

One question just for clarification. In point 2 you say 'change the name'. Do you mean soup runs should be called Fighting Poverty with Food? Cos I agree - a good name which does exactly what it says on the tin while also sounding radical and getting away from the old idea of philanthropy and do-gooders. (Not that there's anything wrong with 'doing good' but sometimes it can end up being more about the donor than the receiver.)

We're ALL responsible for poverty and abuse and the related issues that frequently end in homelessness and it's up to all of us to look for solutions.

The Simon community initiative sounds really good - but isn't this one of the things that would go under the new law?

Take care, hc.

Anonymous said...

Footnote: when i started in the b log disscussion i was staying at a freinds place i knew,but he wanted his privacy back,so okay will leave,been on streets before ,do it again,no problem ! wish i could say "Life is a Adventure "depend i think which angle you are looking from, Alice in the Looking Glass?

Debi said...

Sorry to hear that, hc. Bad timing with the weather getting colder now.

Stay safe!

Anonymous said...

Hi,Fighting Poverty with food,yes thats what i mean,for more than one reason,it would appear these days,espically with IT being so dominite,if is hasn,t got a label,people will invent a label for it,so as to put on a file somewhere,example being:homeless person..streets squats,hostel,sofa-surfing,bed and breakfast etc..
but many people including myself are around, or living more than one homeless label,in a week.
to get back to the point "soup runs for the homeless" change the label to Poverty,different critea is it not. Donor and receiver a very good point,the number of times the comment has been passed to me,"you should be grateful what you get",and this from a paid homeless sector worker,as if they are doing me a big favour, plus within hostels there are quite a few workers who are bullys to people who are a homeless resident in hostel, the reason 2 fold 1. you a not a tennant, you sign a licence when you go into a homeless hostel,which means you sign your rights complain about anything,they have the ultiminate deterent," THERES THE DOOR DONT COME BACK" sorry bit of a rant there, been there got the tee shirt..and dont forget the average hostel in london charges £300 a week, admittitley housing benefit pays this,but there are many services in a hostel,you dont,or may not want to use..but there is no reducting in rent..and yet is has been said rent is high because of services avaiable, someone should check just how many people do accutally use them,i can assure you it isn,t that many,..
again i find myself wandering away from the point"soup runs" handouts,whatever, tactics are changing,where do the runs get the food from.. SHOPS, okay wait outside a food outlet till closing time,then ask staff any food left over,or sell by date,cut the middle man out,meaning the soup runs..
homeless not braindead
regards homelesschicken

Debi said...

Thanks again, hc. I'm running round London today and will reply properly later when I have a mo.

Anonymous said...

hi, just a few lines,turn soup runs into a sporting event? arn,t they not excluded,from proposals
how about egg,and spoon race!Free samples fron shop outlets,also excluded from proposals, i would argue that the food given is a free sample of what the general public eat daily,its all about language is it not,there must be some clever person out there,who could with the use of language,get this repealed,im off to get me head down,been a long day....

Anonymous said...

Homelessness is the most extreme manifestation of poverty...
only words, but so True!
now i really got to get some sleep..

Debi said...

Hi hc. Hope you got a good night's sleep.

Sometimes words are all we have. So we have to use them as best as we can.

You have plenty to say and all of it's important and should be heard. I'm really pleased you're able to use my blog to ensure your voice is out there.

We could spend whole lifetimes discussing which words to use. eg I hate terms like 'the homeless' and 'the disabled' etc. They take away the person's humanity. They should be PEOPLE who are homeless/disabled/elderly etc etc.

But what really matters is trying to get something done about the root causes of these conditions and the injustices that go along with them.

Meanwhile, keep talking and stay safe.

Anonymous said...

Root causes,as many and as varied as people,over the years ,that i have been homeless,i have never met two people,who fell into the abyss the same,yes of course we talk to each other,on the streets,we are wearing the same label..but you have to be careful what you say,and the way you say it,if you give away a weakness in yourself,some my use this as a lever against you,self-preseversation thats what it boils down to, can make you very insular,and inward looking,live from moment to moment,day to day,no forward looking or planning..Roots, causes, of homelessness/ can you plan a cure?of a event? before it has even happened..
thats it for today
regards homelesschicken

Debi said...

Absolutely true, hc. We should be careful not to lump people together and dehumanise them by assuming everyone's the same.

But wouldn't you agree that there are some issues that come up time and again when it comes down to who becomes homeless and why? Abuse, poverty, mental health, addiction etc?

If we believe that it's unacceptable for a society to accept the inevitability of homelessness, we somehow have to tackle those issues as well as look for ways to support people once they're already in the situation.

Take care and stay warm. I hear what you say when you talk about self-preservation and having to be careful what you say on the streets. But here you can say whatever you like in safety and know your words will be welcomed.

Anonymous said...

There some red faces around today,the people like myself, who spent the night "OUT" the red face because of the cold wind,took a while to get moving at 6am this morning..Today i spent a couple of hours in a daycentre,staff tried to get me involved in a basic course in reading and writing..but i said NO thanks,then it went downhill from there,so left spent some time walking around, got a flask now,so going to the runs,is,nt so important,also found a sandwich shop that puts its leftovers out just after five,and being friday,there is more than i can eat,so have put bag in a safe place,and share with others later..
In the meantime here i am typing away,in a cafe,getting a couple of strange looks from people,i think they have rumbled that im homeless,
but lets carry on regardless
Issues; labels, labels ,labels where does it stop.There is plenty of crossover,and looking at one issue,means you can miss others more relevant to the person..Who,What,Why,Where,When..
and the one thats missed HOW..
Lets start with mental health,good as any others [labels]HOW come there appears to be more people on the streets with mental health problems,there are a couple of people i have got to know, NO WAY should they be on the streets..just hope they are found soon by outreach workers ,and helped..which just goes to show Care in the Community,social policy lets down a lot of people,we need more dooers, not talkers,
got to stop now..5 mins left thanks for letting me write to you in this blog,means a lot..
regards homelesschicken

Debi said...

Yes, hc. Cold and wet and windy. Not nice.

I think it's a testament to you that although you talk about survival of the fittest on the streets, you still think about sharing the extra food with other people. It's so important not to allow yourself to be brutalised. Instead you're clearly in touch still with your own humanity.

Labels are one of my big grumbles, by the way. Once you use them, you simultaneously lose sight of the fact that these are PEOPLE, not categories.

And so-called 'care in the community'? Don't start me! It makes me so angry the way people are used, abused and abandoned. And then judged on top of that!

Do you mind if I do another post quoting from the comments you've left here? As I've said before, I think people should hear your voice.

Take care.

Unknown said...

Hi Chicken, I am still reading your words. I have been down to the bones of my ass but never homeless. I don't live in a city but am very aware that the poverty trap that you find yourself in is countrywide.
The homeless in my own town are much less visible and the number of 'sofa surfers' is probably off the scale. Most of our homeless are hidden in Bed and Breakfast whilst the government pats itself on the back for the good job it is doing.

In the past I have done some work for Shelter Box, an organisation that sends everything needed for a family who have been made homeless after a disaster (tent, cooking utensils, water carriers etc). I wonder how many of these are actually needed in our own country and how long a council would put up with a field of homeless tents?

Stay warm and fed, Chick, and please use that obviously sharp brain of yours to keep safe.

Anonymous said...

Feel free to use what ever you wish in creating another post,i have no objections,and thankyou for asking..
So much is done, on behalf of the homeless, like myself called advocating, and yet we are never really asked what we would like,at times this can come across as very,condesending,and patronising,example: They has been many surveys conducted about homelessness,i have been in a couple,was given a five pound reward? for taking part,Classic both times,first question,whats your name,date of bith, its comes across as authority,and we do not need to go down that road do we,
strait away its them and give them lots of false answers,cause they dont know any better,and as a woman on the streets,you have to protect yourself,there is a invisable circle around me, and you "DONT" come inside, unless i invite you..
Hi minx,thankyou for your kinds thoughts,and as far as tent city is concerned,have a look at history: Lincons Inn Fields london 1990/1
I will finish today, with this , why do i use IT cafe,s, cheap,warm, and best of all,treated the same as anyone else,and most importantly of all allows me to express my thoughts,as a person..being homeless is transitional,not a characteristic,
regards homelesschicken

Anonymous said...

you never know when life can have its plus moments,and i write with some trepidation,with disclosure of my own history,anyone who has reached rock-bottom in their lives,and looking for escape and flee into oblivan and the relative sanctury of anonymity, then the streets will draw a few casulaties of this, its called homelessness,today with the social net wider,and the labels have expanded,hidden comes into view..
its not gateways into services,but gateposts,fitting the labels,ticking the boxes,that excludes many from help,this is what i see alomost on a daily basis,there is almost secret language,being in a homeless state,and when we talk to each other,there is amount of trust from the start,but remember its only talk,you may have to hear it three times before you belive..this maybe something you are not aware of,street politics,terriatorial barriers when using soup runs ,if we are to get back to the start of this blog,they were mapped years ago,by old homeless now,but have passed the knowledge mouth to mouth down to the new faces on the streets,there is a update version daily,small changes,those not coming this week,also start of christmas run up,party on the streets,xmas food laid on, big smiling faces,from volunteers,if your lucky, a director from the charity involved will be there,with a photographer,to get his picture taken for the annual yearly report..
"Life is an adventure
Life is like a good book
There are many chapters

Debi said...

Thanks for coming in here, Minx.

HC - I'm on the case. Running round today but will try to get a new post up ASAP. Thanks for allowing us into your invisible circle in this way.

Meanwhile, keep safe and keep thinking and communicating.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting so much on here. I found out about the Westminster proposal only earlier this week. With friends from our forum (a car club) we have lobbied all the major news media and political parties (a few of us have contacts) to try to ensure proper debate on this issue. Frankly, I don't know what the answer is - though I doubt that criminalising charity (even if misguided) is it - but we did feel very strongly that the reasons given (nuisance to residents) could not possibly justify this draconian proposal.

I am pleased to see that there is now a proper debate developing - the proposals did not go through on the nod yesterday, but have been separated out and will be discussed again; Radio 4 covered it on the Today programme; Ken Livingstone has also got involved; the print media are interested and have responded to some of our members to say so; etc

We don't know the answers, we just didn't want to see this go through (a) on the quiet, and (b) for the wrong reasons

Debi said...

Cheeky Monkey - welcome and thanks.

We all have the power to make a difference but first we have to ensure the issues are OUT there being debated. Otherwise, as you say, things like this will slip through and then it will be too late to be appalled.

Debi said...

In case it slips past anyone's attention, I've just done a new post highlighting Homeless Chicken's views from the streets.

Anonymous said...

its been shelved :-)