'A very practical response to homelessness'
A Baptist church member who wants every street homeless person in the UK to have access to food and shelter is stepping up his campaign
Last year Martin Stone of Muswell Hill Baptist Church launched nextmeal.co.uk, which uses technology to connect homeless people with food and shelter. From its beginnings in London, Next Meal now lists more than 300 places across the country where such food and support can be found.
Martin wrote to each of the centres to encourage them to hand out Next Meal cards on Saturday (26 January) to street homeless people. The cards state the Next Meal website address, which people can then access on their phones (which many homeless people have) or through a library.
Martin who has run/worked at the Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen for the last ten years, called the initiative "Next Meal Saturday".
'I'm encouraging everyone to get out there and make sure every one who is street homeless has this card, which tells them where they can access food and support,' Martin said.
'It’s cold out there and clearly unsafe on the streets, and this is a very practical response.
'Nextmeal.co.uk can be used by anyone to help people who need a meal and support. At the same time, it informs people what centres are open and how they can help homeless people without just giving them money. Next Meal empowers people, who see homeless people begging and are concerned about their plight, to respond in a meaningful way.
'I'm please to say a lot of the centres have responded and are supportive.'
Martin added that anyone can print off some cards from the website. 'Millions of people every day feel confused about what they should do when they walk past someone begging. Nextmeal.co.uk means they don’t need to keep doing that. They can print off some cards from the website and hand them one, instead of money or with some cash as well.
‘It’s up to you, but at least you’ve done something,’ said Martin.
He stressed that Next Meal does not ask for money. It was put together by some friends for free, and is 'the response from everyday people who want to help homeless people in an informed and caring manner.’
Nextmeal.co.uk can also be used to help to engage potential volunteers at their local soup kitchen or centre. A lot of people don’t know about their nearest soup kitchen where they can help out or donate food. This website highlights just how much is being done by ordinary people to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
'Ultimately, our aim is to help to reduce street homelessness,' Martin said.
Next Meal technology is now being used in Milan and Paris. Last August Martin received the daily Points of Light award, which the Prime Minister’s Office uses to recognise outstanding individual volunteers. Next Meal has also received positive coverage in the Financial Times and the Big Issue.