Streets Cafe in the Open Market may look like just a cracking greasy spoon, but it’s become so much more. The business has been in owner Kelly Street’s family for 40 years and is home to the Streets Cafe Help the Homeless scheme. This wonderful project sees volunteers regularly collecting, sorting and distributing supplies to those sleeping rough on the streets of Brighton and Hove. Kelly set up the project in 2015 and received an overwhelming response when she decided to take it online last Christmas- 400 people offered to volunteer in just one day!
When word of the project spread, the cafe also collected £2500 via its Xmas giving crowd funder. Using the money, Kelly laid on a delicious three-course Christmas dinner complete with crackers and silly paper hats on the 24th December. More than 70 of Brighton and Hove’s homeless attended the meal.
“I wanted to do something to bring everyone together at Christmas time and to make people feel welcome and at home,” mum of three Kelly explains. “My birthday is Christmas eve and we used to always take the family to see a pantomime, but a couple of years ago I decided I wanted to do something different and give back to those who need it most. It was such an amazing feeling and we all enjoy it more than going to see a show any day!”
After the Christmas bash, the cafe still had more than £1000 left over. This leftover money is currently being used to buy regular weekly supplies for routine distribution such as soup, toiletries, dog food, and baby wipes.
Because so many volunteers stepped forward, Kelly and her family enlisted the help of Chris, who organises the hundreds of people who are part of the group. “I try and rotate it so everyone only comes in once every two or three weeks,” he explains. Chris, who has lived in town for 15 years, is proud dad to 14-year-old Sadie. She regularly comes along to help sort the donations and says she loves Brighton so much she can never imagine wanting to live somewhere else.
Chris and his team also distribute soup vouchers, which holders can bring to the cafe at any time during its opening hours for a hot meal of their choosing from more than 40 soup flavours. “Sometimes people are too shy or embarrassed to come in and just ask for food, so the vouchers really help,” explains Kelly, “but we are always happy to serve soup to anyone who needs it, with or without a voucher. It doesn’t matter if it’s a one-off or if they come in three times in a day.”
The group met twice a week in the colder weather and will continue to meet once a week come rain or shine to carry out their good work. In addition to toiletries and warm clothing, the group also hand out flasks of hot tea and platters of sandwiches lovingly made by Kelly’s three teenage daughters.
Kelly’s dream is to eventually run a mobile bus kitted out with at least 16 beds. She hopes the bus will get people off the street for a night or two and allow them to enjoy things most of us take for granted – a hot shower and a warm night’s sleep.
If you’d like to get involved, follow and message Streets Cafe Help the Homeless on Facebook or email email@example.com.
You can also just turn up at the cafe on any Sunday and you’ll be welcomed with open arms. Be there by 2 pm if you’d like to head out onto the streets of Brighton and Hove to distribute much-needed goodies. Make sure you bring a sturdy bag or trolley to carry the supplies! Donations are also always welcome and the cafe particularly needs toiletries, dog food, socks, and large warm coats and shoes for men.