Arsonists torch van used by Gosport charity feeding the homeless
THE owner of a not-for-profit cafe feeding the homeless has been left ‘sick to the stomach’ after vandals torched a van.
Chloe Cobb, who runs the Trash Cafe Network, in Stoke Road in Gosport, received a phone call from police in the early hours of Thursday morning about the white LDV van fire at around 1.25am.
The 30-year-old said: ‘When I saw it I felt sick to the stomach. The van was burnt out and it was filled with our catering equipment which all in all would be about £10,000.
‘We had just come back from an event feeding school children in Buckland and luckily we had taken the petrol and gas canisters out the back otherwise it would have caused a truly awful explosion.’
The van is one of two used to collect five tonnes of food a week which would otherwise be thrown out and is then reused within The Real Junk Food Project and the cafe, both run by Chloe.
Notes attached to the front of the van included one which read ‘get rid of this piece of (rubbish)’ and comes after a fake parking ticket was put on the vehicle a few weeks ago.
Chloe said: ‘The more I think about it the scarier it gets. The van had been parked there for about three weeks because it is not road worthy but all the authorities knew about it.
‘We sometimes let a few homeless people stay in the van just to get shelter for the night so it is really lucky that there was no one in there. It all could have been a lot worse but it frightens me the lengths people will go to for parking.’
The network feeds around 1,000 people a week including school children in the summer holidays and the team have been raising money to start a training kitchen.
Chloe added: ‘Everything we do is run on a shoestring and having one van out of action means we might not be able to collect food which would otherwise be thrown out and provides much needed meals for people in our community.
‘It also sets us back for our training kitchen which we want to have to offer children and adults the chance to gain cooking skills. I really hope they catch the people that did this.’
A Hampshire police spokesman said: ‘This incident is being treated as arson. It’s not being linked to any other incident.’
Anyone with information should call police on 101 quoting 44190270071.