Drop-in Café - Our Beginning
Our drop-in café began over 15 years ago as a van serving food to women in the red light district of Bradford. It soon became evident that there were many men in the area who were also needing food and other support and so the project moved, not far away, to St Paul's Church, Manningham. A team of local volunteers prepared and served the food each week café style around tables. We provided a warm and welcoming atmosphere and people would often stay after their meal to chat, knit or read the paper. Manningham is an area of high deprivation (top 1% in the country) and food poverty is a big problem, many of our guests are not able to afford the food they need or the gas/electric needed for cooking.
Other Community Links
Our volunteers also include a number of asylum seekers and refugees, the project is a great way for them to improve their English and gain some volunteering experience. They are a valued part of the project and we love their energy and enthusiasm.
We work with Wellsprings Together who provide funding for an advice worker to attend the sessions (now available remotely). This is a popular service and there is usually a queue of people waiting needing advice about benefits, housing and other issues.
We also receive food as part of the FareShare scheme which we give out to our guests. We collect food from Tesco each Thursday evening. This is usually bread, cakes and a small amount of salad and vegetables. We occasionally even get flowers!
Our Response to Covid-19
Our cafe has had to change to meet the needs of the community during the Coronavirus epidemic. We have an amazing team of volunteers who are still preparing meals to be served to our guests. Our guests now queue outside at 2m spacing. One by one they are allowed in to collect food. All our food is now given as takeaways, we don't provide cutlery and so the expectation is that the food is taken home to eat. We found that some of our guests arrived very hungry and wanted food to eat straight away and so we now provide a sandwich/burger that can be eaten as they walk home.
The cafe also provides time to have a quick chat for those who need it and we have space to talk through bigger problems or help with phone calls when needed. We have seen a change in the people attending the project during lockdown. There has been a significant increase in people attending the project who have been made redundant as a result of lockdown measures. There is also a handful of people who come who are very isolated and have nobody to have a conversation with and so they like to have a socially distanced chat while waiting in the queue and while choosing their food. For many this is the only place where they can have a face to face conversation with people they already have relationships with. This has been very important in getting people the right help and support that they need.
Looking to the future
For the foreseeable future the café will need to continue as a takeaway service. This means we need a good supply of takeaway containers, paper carrier bags and hand gel. We try and buy the most sustainable products we can as far as our funding will afford. In the future we aim to open again as a café style project. All our volunteers will be able to come back and help to meet the needs in the community. We will need to space tables further apart and limit the number of people inside at any one time. Funding will be needed not only for food but also for antibacterial products, gloves and potentially face masks as well. We are expecting an increase in the number of people attending the project needing food and support as a result of the epidemic. Many people are now unemployed or struggling financially who were not before. We also expect an increase in those needing support due to their mental health and wellbeing. Our advice worker will be able to carry out much needed face to face conversations.