A CHARITY which provides vital support to some of South Tyneside’s most vulnerable citizens is on the move – and expanding its services.
South Shields-based Hospitality and Hope runs food banks and soup kitchens across the town.
It is currently based at Brinkburn Community Centre and the town’s Living Waters Church at Rekendyke.
But next week it will be moving into the former Hampden Street Day Centre in South Shields, which closed in 2013 as part of a reorganisation of the council’s day centre facilities.
The charity, which is run entirely by volunteers, has been given the premises by the local authority on a peppercorn rent.
It’s a big boost which will enable volunteers to expand the range of help they provide to people in crisis.
The move comes after a year in which demand for borough food banks has risen by 50 per cent.
It’s a need which Deb Stobbs, a volunteer fundraiser with Hope and Hospitality, can only see increasing as the impact of tough benefit changes continue to be felt.
She said: “The reality is that we have outgrown Brinkburn Community Centre.
“At the moment we package the food at Brinkburn and deliver it to different venues, in particular Living Waters.
“Now we are moving out of Brinkburn and Living Waters and consolidating in one building.
“Currently we are only open two days a week, Tuesday and Thursday, and this move means we can open more days.
“South Tyneside food banks saw a 50 per cent increase in the use of services last year and this is a crisis situation which is only going to get worse and affect more and more people.”
Food banks are not available for people who just turn up at the door.
Instead, those deemed to be living in crisis are issued with vouchers by organisations such as the JobCentre and referred to the charity.
It was all hands to the pumps this week as supporters from the Prince’s Trust and Asda went along to Hampden Street with paintbrushes and cleaning equipment to get the complex ready to open.
The charity has passed on thanks to some of the other organisations and individuals which have been supportive, including Youth Justice, North East Council for Addictions and Sir David and Lady Chapman, its patrons.
Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said: “The council is delighted to be to able to support Hospitality and Hope by providing a building that has been vacant for some time.”
New volunteers are also invited to help out at soup kitchens in St Bede’s, in Westoe Road, South Shields, on Sunday night, St Michael’s and All Angels at Westoe on Wednesday lunchtime and at Harton Methodist Church on Thursday lunchtime.