Over the Christmas period, we had the pleasure of volunteering at the Brixton Soup Kitchen and met Brixton's local hero Solomon Smith.
In January 2013 Solomon Smith and Mahamed Hashi founded this amazing charity based in the heart of Brixton city. They created it because of the alarming rise of homelessness and the current financial hardships that many face in London. It started with providing people with warm drinks, clothing and meals to hiring a building to cater for people in need and providing training to reintegrate individuals back into society.
Last year on Christmas Eve we decided to see what this beautiful initiative was all about.
We were welcomed by a myriad of volunteers all there for one thing, providing warm clothing throughout Brixton, in and around London. We were surprised to see that there were volunteers of all ages and ethnicity. From volunteers as young as 2-years-old to 70-year-olds. It was also a wonderful thing to see children getting involved in the kitchen with their parents.
While some were helping in the kitchen, others like us had to prepare the gift bags to give to the homeless, filled with necessities to see them through the night. However, I quickly realized that this compelling gift was more about giving people back there dignity and showing the homeless that they are not alone.
After all the bags were packed and ready, we were organised into groups. Our group headed to Brixton city centre and as we were getting ready to give out the bags, one of the girls in our group asked how were we supposed to recognise a homeless person.
Ava Brown , a lady also in our group and a bus driver told us that she used to be homeless herself, so she knew how to identify a homeless person. She told us of a couple of ways that you can identify someone who's homeless.
There are the obvious ones with a sleeping bag near shops, who will make sure they are not hidden from the public to encourage a helping hand. Whereas there are those who are less obvious, who will hide in Macdonald’s, KFC and other warm places until they close to get warmth and access to food. On the contrary, there are also those who sit at the bus stop, pretending to wait for the bus.
We came across a variety of people, from young to old, all different ethnicities and from all walks of life. But what was truly moving is that when we gave a bag to one person, they would call another person over to also receive one of our gift bags. Even though these people may have been complete strangers to one another before homelessness, their selfless attitude towards those in a situation that makes you want to focus only on yourself shows us in more ways than one that this is the true meaning of being a human. Caring for one another regardless of our background. They surely had more dignity and respect than we sometimes have for one another.
It was gratifying to see the smile on their faces and our small team hoped that we warmed up their hearts on Christmas as it surely warmed up ours.
The Brixton soup kitchen is running throughout the year and is open to anyone in need of legal advice, a cup of tea, professional training, warm meals, clothing and food.