“Two years ago, while on a lunch break, I walked past the Whitfield Street soup kitchen in central London. It is next door to my office – we are neighbours. At the time, I wasn’t sure it was a soup kitchen, but I had regularly noticed crowds of people outside – people whose look and demeanour suggested they were homeless or had fallen on hard times. There I was with my £7 lunch from Pret-A-Mange, in the privileged position of having a good job, and a roof over my head and I was walking past… again.
In that moment I decided to go in and find out what was going on. I met the then manager (Miranda) and in that brief meeting I realised I could help her, and she could help me. She needed volunteers, and I had access to a couple of hundred people who work in the business I help to run (I am the managing director at an international media business. People who work in this environment tend to be from privileged backgrounds). I felt we could do with a sense of perspective: We all moan about our lives, work and pressure , but by comparison to rough sleepers and the long term homeless, what have we got to complain about!?
Fast forward to the present day and everyone at MKTG (my business), and its sister agencies (Posterscope and PSI) are weekly volunteers. We help prepare food, work front of house and raise funds to keep the larder stocked. We have got to know many of the customers, and this has given us a sense of purpose and helped us understand that homelessness is closely linked to mental health issues. Many of the guests at Whitfield St have such issues, which if left untreated, ensures they will remain homeless. Simultaneously, the sufferers we know have become disengaged with their health problems. The reasons for this are complex but include the reduction of funding for mental health outreach in the NHS. Being homeless also reduces the likelihood of being seen by a mental health professional.
After a company brainstorm we had the idea to launch a crowd funding campaign to create London’s first ever mental health drop-in centre inside the soup kitchen. We aim to connect guests back to their mental health issues in a trusted environment, and provide a model for all soup kitchens in London.”
You can have a look at Michael’s campaign to help Homeless people with their mental health, here: