Italian restaurants serve up free meals to city’s homeless

University of Portsmouth group finance and business students, from left, back row Professor Diego Vazquez-Brust and head of the accounting and financial management subject group at the University of Portsmouth Andrew Wood. 'Front row, Louisa Burton, Faculty of Business and Law dean Professor Gioia Pescetto, Francesca Sharp, Amy Davidson

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TWO RESTAURANTS teamed up to provide hot meals for the homeless in Portsmouth.

From 6pm, O Solo Mio in Port Solent and Bella Calabria in North End launched their partnership with the Robert Dolling Project at St Agatha’s Church in Market Way.

Graham Everett who was homeless for 22 years and Russel Allen, one of the trustee's of the charity''Picture by Habibur Rahman

Graham Everett who was homeless for 22 years and Russel Allen, one of the trustee's of the charity''Picture by Habibur Rahman

The original plan was to provide meals through the initiative’s Homeless Bus – which began providing crisis accommodation to rough sleepers last month.

However, due to bad weather, tables and chairs were set up inside the church offering visitors a warm, comfortable space to tuck into pasta and tiramisu.

The owner of the restaurants, Gianni Vaccaro, said: ‘The recent cold snap is a stark reminder about challenges those sleeping rough in Portsmouth have to confront daily.

‘I am delighted that I ‘m in a position to help these vulnerable people and a great community-led project. It would be great to see other businesses doing the same.’

Initially offering their services on a monthly basis, the eateries soon hope to operate from the bus every week.

One full visitor, Malcolm Hellyer, said: ‘It’s lovely to see projects like this. There are quite a few like them in the city and they aren’t just for homeless people. I go to the ones that are for lonely people who want a chat and a cup of tea.’

Russell Allen is a chairman of the charity and a rough sleeper. He said: ‘At 14, I found out I was adopted and I quickly spiralled, getting involved in crime and drugs, I soon became homeless. In 2008 my sister committed suicide. I had to turn my life around.

‘I went into recovery and have been clean ever since. Since then I’ve become a Muslim and launched my own charity, Just Love. I’m involved with lots of different organisations.

‘Events like this show you first-hand the good it does people. A meal like this makes a massive difference to these people’s lives. I really hope other companies get involved.’

Leo Ciccarone, a spokesman for the Robert Dolling Project, said: ‘We continue to be amazed by the generosity of local people and businesses.

‘I want to thank Gianni and O Solo Mio and Bella Calabria for their kindness. We are looking forward to seeing the delicious food that will be served over the coming weeks and months.’