Church starts up a takeaway service for the homeless

An Edinburgh church has ensured that the homeless community still have at least one hot meal a week, handing out takeaway dinners at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.

A user (name not given) of the service offered by the Step to Hope charity eats his meal in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh.

Reverend Peter Sutton and his volunteers spend their Sunday afternoons cooking around 100 hot meals in the Parish Church of St Cuthbert, just off Princes Street.

Usually, the meals would be served at tables inside the church, but social distancing has meant the group had to find a new way to provide meals to those most in need.

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Mr Sutton said: “We still cook the food in the kitchen, but have been handing out the meals in the courtyard at the bottom of Edinburgh Castle.

A user (name not given) of the service offered by the Step to Hope charity eats his meal in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh.

“We can make sure people are still fed, and we can still hand out clothing to people, we hang it up on the banisters outside.

“We’re doing around 100 three course meals.”

The church and its volunteers are classed as key workers due to the reliance the homeless community have on the meals. Previously the church also ran a shelter, but that also had to close when social distancing measures were introduced.

Mr Sutton said: “We have around 30 people who would consider us to be key providers of help to them. And then that 30 have all their contacts so we end up with usually an additional 70.

Users (names not given) of the service offered by the Step to Hope charity having a meal in the grounds of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert in Edinburgh.

“A lot of people say it’s so good we’re helping them, but really they’re helping us keep doing things.

“There’s nothing worse than being a church and having your doors closed.

“When everyone is going through a really tough time at the moment, it’s really challenging not to be able to open the doors and help – because that’s what the church normally does.

“I see our good homeless friends giving us a way to keep doing what we’re all about.”

And the community always make sure the volunteers are aware of their gratitude, said Mr Sutton.

He added: “Of all the people you get to deal with in the church, it’s the homeless folk who are most appreciative of what you do for them.

“You always try and help out as many people as you can, but the ones who are most grateful are our homeless friends.”

The church has also set up a recording studio so regular Sunday congregations can still go out. Mr Sutton joked: “The only problem with that is if you get too good at it, no one is going to want to come back to church on a Sunday.”