The breakfast club for everyone
28 September 2018 | North East England
How community cafe is feeding the homeless and giving volunteers a boost
Prince’s Street cafe in Middlesbrough offers a warm welcome and a hearty meal to those who need it most - people without a roof over their heads. But the cafe is not just helping the homeless. It is giving volunteers who offer a helping a hand a boost too, as they develop vital experience and skills to help them find jobs.
The cafe was set up by Susan Gill. She had been determined to help since she saw the plight of rough sleepers in the town as she toured the streets with police officers.
As part of the town's Neighbourhood Watch executive she was handing out personal alarms and UV markers as crime prevention tools. However it was the figures huddled under blankets in shop doorways that stayed with her and prompted Susan, 60, to launch the charity Neighbourhood Welfare.
Earlier this year, after securing lottery funding, she assembled a team of volunteers and opened a cafe for the homeless in the deprived Gresham area of the town.
Immediately it became known as a haven for those desperate for a warm meal and a place to receive a friendly welcome, serving up to 65 breakfasts every weekday morning.
The cafe is open between 10am and 2pm and has proven a lifeline for its customers.
Susan said: "I turned up the other morning to find someone had pitched a tent on the pavement outside waiting for us to open, it has become one of the most important places that some of our regulars have in their lives.
"The team of volunteers we have here is quite incredible and the success of the cafe is down to every one of them.
"Some are prisoners paying something back to the community before they are released.”
And proving that helping others can be a good thing for all of us, volunteers have benefitted too. Susan adds: "Working at the cafe has helped to find paid employment for seven of our volunteers, who were not in work. It seems to help everyone."
After tucking into a cooked breakfast Steven, 40, said: "If it wasn't for Susan and the volunteers here I would be eating from the bins. She is literally a life saver and I don't know what my life would be like if I couldn't come here. They're just amazing."
Volunteer Kerry Crockett, 35, a mother of two, said: "We're not just here to feed our customers, we help them with housing claims, give them toiletries and clothes if they need them. I feel a part of a team that is doing something vital for this town and that's a nice feeling."