Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Helping Hands meets outside Debenhams to provide people with a hot meal, packed lunch and drink.
The service ‘provides a lifeline’ for those living on Portsmouth’s streets. Daniel Kenney, 34, lost his home after problems with alcohol and addiction.
‘This is a massive lifesaver – without it I would struggle to get food. There can be a stigma to being homeless but the volunteers don’t pass judgement. Having a decent meal makes you feel better for the day ahead,’ he said.
Jordan Gilad, 54, added: ‘If it wasn’t for this service then I wouldn’t eat. My next hot meal will be when Helping Hands return in two days.’
The initiative was established by former community worker, Bev Saunders, 61, who said: ‘I was walking down Commercial Road three years ago and noticed how many people were living on the streets. I began taking sandwiches and hot chocolate for people and other volunteers got involved and donated food. We started a Facebook page and it spiralled from there.’
One of those volunteers is Becca Baker the Cup Cake Maker who provides a range of cakes.
The group also provide a hot Sunday meal as well as support with health issues and guidance as to the procedures and completion of forms to get off the streets.
Bev, affectionately referred to as mum, commented: ‘Some people don’t know how to access help or can’t read or write. One young man wanted to contact his mother but didn’t know how to. We put them back in touch and he is now living with her.’
Lisa Powey, 47, lost her home and son after falling into rent arrears. Through the support of Helping Hands she now has a home and her son has returned. Lisa currently works as a volunteer for Helping Hands.
‘Bev provided such an amazing service and helped me get back on my feet. I now want to help give something back,’ she said.
Drew Wilkes, 47, who became homeless after losing his job, added: ‘This is such a vital service and Bev never lets you down.’