VOLUNTEERS behind a soup kitchen used by hundreds of people want to take its services to the next level, by not just helping people to survive... but by helping them to live.

Volunteers at One Love Soup Kitchen, in Southend, feed about 100 rough sleepers each night it’s open - on a Monday and Thursday.


Organisers - the team


Pamper - the ladies enjoying some 'me' time

The harsh reality for these vulnerable people though, is after their hot meal they are back on the streets with nowhere to turn.

Earlier this month, the soup kitchen, based at the Hollybrook site, in Victoria Avenue, Southend, held a ‘Ladies Day’ which was open to women living on the streets.

A number of organisations attended to give out advice, help with addiction and to give advice on domestic abuse. There was also a motivational speaker on hand.

The women were fully pampered with hair, make-up and nail experts on hand, in a bid to restore their self-confidence and let them know it is never too late to rebuild a life.

Alison Burt, who volunteers at One Love, said: “I have been a volunteer at One Love for just over a year and in that time I have seen the number of homeless people rise.

“I often left the soup kitchen in tears, feeling sad and guilty that I was returning to a warm home and a comfy bed, when the guys and girls were returning to a tent if they were lucky - most were returning to a door way or a park bench where they were vulnerable to passers by.

“I felt that although we were giving our guests a lifeline and we were helping them to survive, we were not helping them to live.”

Alison approached one of the co-founders, Zoey Smith, and the pair came up with the idea to work in small groups to integrate their clients back into the community. Together they asked local businesses and friends to help and received a great response.

After the ladies had their pamper, they enjoyed an afternoon tea while listening to recovering addict, Marie Edmonds, who was the guest speaker. After overcoming her own troubles, Marie now regularly volunteers at soup kitchens and runs her own organisation to help people get off the streets.

Ms Edmonds said: “We have to stop pretending that addiction is something to be ashamed of. We have to talk about it. Addiction is draining for the addicts and their families, as well as the community, but when we silence the problem and pretend like everything is okay when it isn’t, the fire grows, and disintegrates everything in it’s path.”

One of the women who attended the Ladies Day, was a 20-year-old expectant mother from Southend, who isn’t homeless currently, but is still battling a drug problem.

She said: “The Ladies Day was really good and after speaking to Marie I’m on my way to my first N.A meeting.

“I feel positive I can try and turn my life around. There aren’t enough outreach services for people on the streets and users, to make sure that once they are better they don’t slip back into that life again.

“I am not on the streets at the moment but I have been many times before. I became addicted to drugs because dealers manipulated me into thinking they were my friends when I was 14 and then got me on drugs. I didn’t know anything at that age and I was trapped.

“I have been through a lot of trauma, and when you are on the streets you are left to just get on with it.

“The people at One Love genuinely care, they understand that we can’t change over night but they are there to listen and help, unlike some of the other services in Southend who make the rules really strict.”

Alison added: “We will be planning on holding these events on a regular basis every six weeks for different groups of people - the next event will be dedicated to veterans on the streets.

“If we can help just one person then all this has been worthwhile.”