Manchester Lifeshare soup kitchen faces uncertain future

Breakfast at the Charter Street Mission
Image caption The soup kitchen offers a free cooked breakfast to rough sleepers at weekends

A soup kitchen that "makes a big difference" to Manchester's homeless faces an uncertain future after being asked to leave its premises.

Lifeshare's kitchen has been housed in the Charter Street Mission for decades.

However, the mission's trustees said the building was no longer "fit for purpose" and the charity must leave by 19 February.

Lifeshare operations manager Judith Vickers said it was "sad because it has been [our] home for a very long time".

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has pledged to end rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020, said he would meet the charity to discuss the situation.

Image caption Michael, who uses the kitchen, said it "makes a big difference"

Lifeshare was founded in 1984 and its soup kitchen is the only place the city's rough sleepers can get a free cooked breakfast at weekends.

For decades, the facility has been based at the Charter Street Mission, which itself first opened its doors in the 1860s to provide adults and children with free meals, clothing and education.

In 2017, the charity was told it would have to leave the building to allow for redevelopment, but Mrs Vickers said they had hoped this deadline could be extended.

Lifeshare has been offered an alternative venue, but this is not yet available as it is being used as a temporary night shelter.

"If that service is not there, you are going to get more people dying on the streets, more people poorly," Mrs Vickers said.

"We're the oldest homeless charity in Manchester and we're not getting the support I think that we deserve."

Image caption Judith Vickers said it was "sad" to be leaving the building

Michael, a diabetic who currently relies on the soup kitchen, said getting "some food in the morning or even a warm brew... makes a difference".

"It's a place to keep warm and have a conversation with the staff. That makes a big difference too."

The area around the Charter Street Mission was once one of the most deprived in Manchester, described as "Hell upon Earth" by the German socialist philosopher Friedrich Engels in 1844, but it has been gentrified in recent years, with the building now surrounded by luxury flats and office developments.

Workers at a nearby residential development are currently using the building as a site office.

The Charter Street Mission

Image copyright Supplied
  • The building was first established in 1866 and renamed the Charter Street Ragged School and Working Girls Home in 1892
  • At that time, it was used to provide food and education to destitute children, whose ragged clothes inspired the name
  • The building was subsequently used for various community projects, including adult literacy classes, mothers' meetings and accommodation for vulnerable girls

Despite the numbers of rough sleepers increasing from 94 in 2017 to 123 last year, Mr Burnham recently restated his commitment to tackling the problem.

In 2017, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority introduced a £1.8m plan to provide accommodation and support to those sleeping on the streets and in January, the mayor told the BBC he would "end rough sleeping in Manchester by 2020".

Mr Burnham said he would now meet with Lifeshare to discuss the move.

The mission's trustees said Lifeshare had "enjoyed considerable financial support" in the form of reduced rent for many years and while they would not confirm what the redeveloped building will be used for, they said they were "committed for the charity to continue providing services for the poor and vulnerable".

You can watch the full story on BBC Inside Out North West on BBC One at 19:30 GMT on Monday 11 February and for 28 days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.

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