Why there’s no room at the inn to feed Bradford’s needy this Christmas

T&A titlepieceASK Keith Thomson and John Tempest what they’d like for Christmas and they might say, respectively: another building, and a piece of land in central Bradford.

During the next year both Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank and the Bradford Soup Run will be looking for a new location to carry on with the job of feeding the needy which they’ve been doing for a combined total of 40 years or more.

John Tempest’s Soup Run has been providing top notch nosh directly to the homeless for 30 years. Currently he operates from a large container called The Pavilion not far from the Interchange.

The food bank, founded by Lashman Singh, has packaged bags of donated or specially purchased food to people recommended by welfare, medical or social agencies for just over ten years. They have been doing this in the former Roman Catholic church building, St Mary’s, just off Leeds Road – not far from the Soup Run’s office on Barkerend Road.

Hundreds of people having a hard time will benefit from their work. The festive season isn’t a time for relaxation for them. Keith Thomson, treasurer of the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank, said: “Unfortunately, this year Christmas eve, Christmas day, New Year’s eve and New Year’s day all fall on our only packing days, so we are beavering away at the moment to get stocks of food bags up to scratch to meet the demand.

“This has been at more than 800 bags a month for the whole year giving a total for 2014 of more than 10,000 bags, each worth between £12 and £15. The recent Parliamentary scrutiny report on food banks raised the profile nationally and as a result we have seen a slight increase in the donation of food and cash.

“We are still looking for a new home and will be concentrating on that task in the New Year once we have got Christmas out of the way.”

The food bank is having to move out because the premises are scheduled to be converted into homes and workshops for the homeless.

Every Christmas John Tempest’s Soup Run offers a sumptuous feast for up to 200 homeless people. This year’s four-course dinner, comprising of the best ingredients Mr Tempest and his team of 11 volunteers are able to acquire and cook, takes place on Boxing Day.

The need can be measured by the fact that when the Soup Run started back in the mid-1980s, the Christmas meal was prepared and served by just three people.

John Tempest’s wife Julie, who normally makes the vegetable-rich weekly stew, will be taking control of the Christmas meal which takes many hours to prepare. All the hot food is cooked in or on the Tempests’ double oven, transferred into very large American-made flasks and then transported from their home near Chellow Dene in two vehicles to the Pavilion.

But this year’s free meal may be the last to be dished up on the present site where the Soup Run has been established for the last 20 years or more..

John Tempest said: “Bradford Council decided they wanted to build a new swimming pool pretty much where we currently are. I’ve had a meeting with them, and everybody said nice things about what we do, but as yet we have heard nothing further.

“We haven’t been given a leaving date or a timetable, but we will be looking for somewhere else in 2015. Ideally we will need to be able to near to the city centre and in a fairly enclosed area – not too open to potential nosey-parkers – and we will need to be able to site not one but two container units. It seems sensible to plan to seat more people than we can at present.

“We don’t want an existing building; but a piece of land for rent would be good. I don’t mind if it’s council-owned or privately owned .If anyone has any wonderful suggestions, please write to us at Unit 4, Newcastle House, Barkerend Road, Bradford BD1 4AP, and let us know.”

That’s in the future. More pressingly, this year’s Christmas feast is short of two or three essential items: chocolate bars – “The guys on the street like them” – and scarves.

Recently a man turned up at the Friday night Soup Run with barely any shoes on his feet. He asked for help. John Tempest went out and bought him a pair of boots, what he called “the ethos of meeting the need”.

If the Three Wise Men happen to be passing through Bradford on their way east this Christmas, they won’t be bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but a carton of cereals, a three-litre container of milk and a box of socks and chocolates.

From Telegraph & Argus

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