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Revisiting the new BACA homeless service since a short summer break


By Hannah Chowdhry

It has been a while since I directly helped at the British Asian Christian Association 'Meals for the Homeless' project.  This is because I have been busy over the summer passing my CBT, revising my A Level courses and having some time out to relax.

So you can imagine, I wanted to see what changes have been made to the service in my absence as we have now relinquished the property which is now with another Muslim charity who allow us free use of the building to continue our work. The charity are also collaborating with us by providing food on a monthly basis that compliments our foodbank serving local families with young children.

It was a surprise to see that much of what was present in the centre is the same although the new owners have now added a pool table and table soccer table in their desire to reach out to local youth.  Every evening they know hold a youth centre.  The kitchen we installed two years ago is still in good condition and we are able to use it for free.  

The wall mural we added many years ago that was designed by local children will remain and continues to be a beacon of hope for local people with the words 'Love has no colour' emblazoned in large bold writing.  Our British Asian Christian Association signage has been removed and now contains the logo of the new group.

Staff from the Muslim charity have been very helpful and when we have problems with the local homeless people there is always a number of them around to help calm the queue.  Moreover, they have often been helpful in helping clear the hall and our set up. 

Collecting food from a partner restaurant.

We now have a new series of partners in the local community who help us with cooking food, with our volunteer Rajeshri Chouhan on Thursday I collected food from a local Peri peri chicken takeaway who prepared 20 meals. On Friday we collected from an Indian restaurant that produced 20 assorted meals including; potatoes and pea curry, chick pea curry with rice and also lentil curry and rice. On Saturday my mother Juliet Chowdhry cooked a sumptuous Chicken and rice meal and meat-balls and Pasta meal, also every fortnight on Thursdays Rajeshri's aunt Narijna Chouhan also prepares either Chicken, vegetable or a meat dish meal.  On some Saturdays a partner Christian charity named Divine also provide a selection of meat or vegetable meals which vary widely.  So our homeless visitors get a varied and healthy diet.  We often buy bottled water,  canned drinks as a treat for visitors and also share cakes and small treats like chocolates and fruit.

We are also helping the Borough's homeless shelter unit at Malachi Project at which homeless people are being provided with redesigned and renovated former building site office containers as one-bedroom flats. We provide 50 meals to them every week in a partnership that also leads to them sharing details of our meals service to their occupants.

Our food parcel successfully delivered to Project Malachi.

Our visitors queue with minimum fuss and most have been attending regularly so know how the rules we have set for their safety. Any new visitors are helped into our queuing system by Rajeshri Chouhan before our service begins.

We continue to wear masks and request that visitors also wear them and we hold a supply, which we have continue to provide to those who agree to donning them. Some of our clientele have reduced as they have been moved to further parts of Redbridge, neighbouring boroughs and neighbouring counties, some are in Epping, some are now in Gants Hill, others are in Newham and even as far as Hackney. Those who have moved farther away occasionally meet with us and we continue to serve them and hear accounts of their progress or disappointments.  

We are continuing to share Bibles to any of the homeless who wish to obtain a copy and when my mother or I are attending we are available to pray with our visitors at their request.

I am dressed in my football kit as I play for Frenford Football Club and had a match shortly after serving food at the centre. :p

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