HELP is at hand for people who find themselves living on the streets or who simply cannot afford to buy themselves food.
The Courtyard Cafe, in Hartlepool’s Murray Street, has launched its own soup kitchen and is providing around a dozen people a week with a free, hearty meal.
The idea belonged to kitchen assistant Claire Innes, who said she was sick of throwing so much food away at the end of the day and decided to put it to good use.
Now, with the help of the manager Scott McDonald and owner David Oldroyd, they have set up a weekly soup kitchen at the town centre venue.
Open between 5pm and 7pm every Wednesday night, the Courtyard Cafe is open for people to pop in and take advantage of some free grub.
Claire said they mainly provide food for those referred to them from foodbank initiatives in town or churches, but added that they won’t turn anybody away in their hour of need.
The 33-year-old, from the King Oswy area of town, said: “The soup kitchen is aimed at homeless people in Hartlepool and those that simply cannot afford to pay for food.
“We get a lot of referrals from the foodbanks and churches in town, but everybody is welcome and if a mum turned up with her three children in need of food then we certainly wouldn’t turn them away.
“It is called a soup kitchen but last week we cooked sausage casserole and we are looking to cook panaculty next week.
“We always look to cook something different each week, but it is always a healthy, hearty meal.
“It is a sad reflection on the state that many people find themselves in due to the current economy that we have to do something like this.
“But we are more than happy to try to help and Scott and David have been really supportive and fully behind it.”
Organisers also hold a raffle during the week to raise money for the food used at the soup kitchen and a food hamper is up for grabs each week.
The initiative, launched two weeks ago, is providing free food for around 12 people a week but Claire said there is scope to provide grub for up to 20 people at a time during the two-hour slot.
Claire added: “We can seat up to 20 people at a time during the two hours and we are just going to see how it goes.”
l For more information, call the Courtyard Cafe on (01429) 868898.