The Bones has a peice on the Government wanting, possibly, to ban soup runs. For the past 30 years our parish has run one: day in, day out small groups of parishioners and their friends prepare food and take it down to the seafront and feed anyone who turns up. The photograph he uses was taken of our soup run some ten years ago.
It is interesting that in Westminster some charities that work for the homeless are against soup runs.
There are voices in the local council who really don't like what we do, suggesting it attracts the homeless and makes Brighton more "homeless friendly", others have said "food for free" encourages a degree of fecklessness, others just object to the possibility of "litter". It is true that during the 30 years we have had to move away a residential area to the open space of the promenade, it can be intimidating to gather 30/40 homeless people together, some of whom might be high on drink or drugs, or just anti-social. For myself I can understand misgivings, if we give someone a sandwich are encouraging him or her just to save the cost of feeding themselves in order to spend the money on booze, well I suppose better for them to have the money to pay for it rather than to have no money and steal from the local small shopkeeper.
There is a difference between "soup runs" done in the open and "soup kitchens" done in a building. "Soup kitchens" can offer a lot more pastoral care, a little counselling, referral to more specialised services, they can also have better trained staff on hand. Our soup run simply feeds, and depending on who is feeding that night might do a bare minimum of referral.
The advantage it has over the a "soup kitchen" is that it is cheap, we do it for £15 a night, which the parish pays, plus any treats helpers might bring. The whole thing is rather impromptu, people arrive wanting food, just before 7pm, those with food arrive at 7pm, food and drink is distributed and by 7.30pm it is done.
It is popular.
One of the reasons is that many homeless people have a real aversion to being enclosed in a building, or faced with an interrogation they can't escape. They preferr being in the open, there are no hoops to jump through, helpers might get to know someone's name, or at least the name they give, even their life story, but there is no form filling, no registration, no hassle, no expectation of interaction. So many of those who come have a phobia of any invasion of privacy, they don't want to be sucked into a process that is going to get them off the street, or anywhere else.
They often fear a loss of the little control they have over their lives. Some, on their way "down" or "up" don't want to even tell other people or even themselves they are in need of food. Others don't want involvement with other homeless or needy people, who can be quite frightening. At our soup run they can, if they wish, merely be on a nodding acquaintanceship with other people in need.