Local Teamwork: How the Worthing Community is supporting some of the most vulnerable

Since the Government issued the strict social distancing rules and sent the country into lockdown, many Sussex businesses have been forced to close their doors. Local cafe owner Sarah Hill, however, is using her kitchen and skills to help support the most vulnerable in Worthing during this time. 
There were two reasons why Worthing cafe owner Sarah Hill didn’t hesitate when agreeing to help feed the borough’s vulnerable homeless and rough sleepers during lockdown. The first was that the Cafe Montague proprietor saw for herself how hungry the vulnerable people, numbers have doubled since the crisis began, actually were. And secondly, the prospect of closing her cafe and putting her staff out of work was too awful to contemplate. Better work for a good cause and keep her great team together.

Cafe Montague are providing around 80 people with three meals a day

Sarah was approached by homeless charity ‘Turning Tides’ and Worthing Borough Council’s Outreach team. Since then, Cafe Montague have been working flat out providing 80 people, currently housed in town centre hotels, with three meals a day.

Sarah said,  ‘It’s really good because you get to see a side of society that you wouldn’t normally see. I think that there’s a belief that when you walk past a homeless person you don’t understand why they’re homeless. Hearing some of their stories you begin to realise why people can end up in this position. It broadens the mind.’

The Montague Place cafe stepped in when St Clare’s Community Hub, run by Turning Tides, and other night shelters had to close because of the lockdown and could no longer provide meals for their usual Monday night visitors.

‘Things just snowballed from there,’ said Sarah who runs the cafe with partner Michael.

The team is not only feeding temporary hotel residents but other vulnerable people in the community.

‘They’re very hungry, most of them,’ said Sarah, “A lot of them haven’t been using the night shelters and are rough sleeping and relying on donations from the public.’

Food is supplied by generous donations from Cafe Montague customers, Bookers Worthing and Co-op as well as other local stores though the majority of supplies comes in two deliveries per week from the food waste charity FareShare. The Council is meeting some of the cafe’s expenses.

‘Last week FareShare delivered a ton of food to us and we don’t have much of that left.’ continued Sarah, ‘As well as these donations, the Council’s Food Hub asked another food charity, UKHarvest, to deliver us anything fresh that they couldn’t store. So we get things like mince, sausages and bacon too.

‘We cook the meals and then there’s a delivery rota. In the morning it’s the Outreach team,  lunchtime is Turning Tides and in the evening there’s a rota of churches and charities and Christian Associations.’

It’s a great example of crisis-time community partnership working between local business, Council staff and church groups.

While grateful that they can help to support the vulnerable communities at this time, the other reason for Sarah to help is that it means she can retain her staff and keep her business running during the pandemic.

‘We can stay open and it’s great to help where we can. I don’t want to lose my lovely staff,’ she said.

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