Helping our neighbours in a Christ-like way
The Archbishop of Birmingham joined volunteers at a soup kitchen in Birmingham city centre at the weekend.
The Most Reverend Bernard Longley spent time distributing sandwiches and hot drinks alongside volunteers from the St Vincent de Paul Society.
The kitchen is open every night of the year in Moor Street and supported by the Redditch St Vincent de Paul Society twice a month.
Between 70 and 140 homeless men and women visit the soup kitchen each night and in addition to food, they can receive sleeping bags, clothing and footwear.
The soup kitchen is very much a local effort. St Bede's Middle School is one of four parish schools in the city supporting the outreach and in the coming months, students will be making around 300 sandwiches.
Polish parishioners from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic church also help out by joining the volunteering team to reach out to the many Polish and Eastern European men who visit the soup kitchen.
In addition to volunteering their time for the soup kitchen, members of the local St Vincent de Paul Society walk the streets of Birmingham twice a month to check car parks, stairwells, doorways and other areas to make contact with people in need who are not currently coming to the soup kitchen.
They walk the streets armed with sandwiches, hot drinks, sleeping bags, basic clothing, and 'Vinnie-packs' containing toiletries, a hat, gloves, socks and a thermal blanket. They are also more than happy to spend time talking to the people they meet and lend a sympathetic ear.
Archbishop Longley said he was struck by the large number of people who came looking for help and the wide range of needs they had.
"The presence of these men and women night by night highlights the scandal of poverty in the heart of Birmingham and the responsibility that we all have not only to alleviate but to seek to prevent it," he says.
"I am grateful that there are such places in our city where people in real need are able to receive a word of welcome and of Christian friendship, as well as some material support.
"I thank all those who regularly give so generously of their time and their goods to help their neighbour in a Christ-like way."
One of the volunteers, Anne Glennon, added: ''I responded to an appeal by our Parish SVP group for volunteers to help at a soup kitchen. I didn't really know what to expect as we drove in to Birmingham city centre.
"On arriving we were met by over 100 men and women. They were desperate for the food and drinks we had with us.
"I could not believe that in this day and age so many people were so dependent on a soup kitchen in this country's second city."