This week has seen Westminster City Council state that they intend to ban soup runs within a particular area of their borough (see below for map). There are arguments from a variety of parties both for and against soup runs.
Soup runs offer a way of accessing food and sometimes clothing for those that are unable or unwilling to engage with other services. Anyone can access the services provided by soup runs. Whilst many of the service users will be rough sleepers, those that are housed also use the services. Some service users will have access to benefits, albeit they are likely to be struggling financially, while others will not be claiming even if they can. It can be a place for socialising as well as support.
The attraction of the soup run is that it is commitment free and anonymous. For someone new to the streets, or experiencing problems with their benefits, soup runs allow rough sleepers to address a basic need for food. It also means that those dealing with other issues including addiction, phobias and paranoia and who feel they cannot access a building based service, such as a day centre, are provided with stress free interaction.
However, the issues raised against soup runs are that many are organised by those without any experience of people management, crowd control or homeless people. Soup run numbers can be high and there are often very few volunteers to run the service. Many service users have used these services for many years. They can however be very intimidating to those using the service, who may be vulnerable, residents of the areas, and volunteers as well as outreach workers. Which may account for the general dislike of such activities.
But do these soup runs really help rough sleepers maintain a life on the streets or does it allow them to access essentials for their basic survival on the streets?
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