A PIONEERING new project is helping homeless people on Wearside over the festive season and beyond.
St Mary’s Open House, in Bridge Street, Sunderland, has already attracted hundreds of homeless, vulnerable and disadvantaged people through its doors.
Every Thursday, the project offers free food, warmth and a friendly face to many people who have found themselves left out in the cold.
Miss Sunderland Philippa Attle took time out of her schedule to serve soup at the venture.
The 18-year-old, from Chester-le-Street, said: “This is a really good cause and it’s important to recognise it because a lot of these people are forgotten about.”
Volunteer Tracy Featherstone added: “We have opened a cafe experience for people of all backgrounds, including homeless people and disadvantaged people who are suffering from substance misuse and drug problems.
“They can come into a friendly environment and have something to eat as well as warmth, friendship and advice.
“It’s heart-breaking because there’s a cross section of people who come, from young to old, and each week the number of people seems to grow as word spreads.
“Last week, we served 200 helpings of food, which really shows there is a need in Sunderland for this.”
“This is the first step towards helping and the first step on the road to recovery for some.
“It’s about saving lives and doing a little bit more for our community. If a bowl of soup, a warm place and a friendly face.”
The scheme, which is supported by St Cuthbert’s Care, is run on the kind will of generous Wearside companies who have contributed food and other goods to keep it going.
Stadium of Light chef Donna Smith has been calling on her culinary skills to cook up a storm in the kitchen.
“All of the food that has been served has been donated by Sunderland businesses,” Tracy said.
“Rob’s Butchers on Blandford Street has donated meat, Matty Thoburns the fruiters has donated fruit and veg and dentist Michael Oliver has also helped.
“People’s generosity has been amazing but we need more to keep this going.”
Open House is open every Thursday from 10am to 2pm.