Ham&High staff give away their lunch to help homeless for Mitzvah Day campaign

Ham & High staff and colleagues from sister titles with their lunch at St Mungo's. Picture: Dieter P

Ham & High staff and colleagues from sister titles with their lunch at St Mungo's. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Ham&High staff donated their lunches in a visit to a Swiss Cottage homeless shelter as part of our Mitzvah Day challenge to help vulnerable members of the community.

For the fifth year running, the newspaper has teamed up with Mitzvah Day UK, an annual charity event encouraging people to help those most in need.

This year we are supporting the Give Away Your Lunch campaign, which encourages offices, organisations and community groups to hand over their lunch as part of Mitzvah Day to a nearby homeless shelter between tomorrow and Sunday.

The aim is not only to get into the spirit of the day but to foster longer-term relationships between offices and charities.

To help get the ball rolling, Ham&High staff and colleagues from its sister titles who are also based in the paper’s Avenue Road office, in Swiss Cottage, gave away their lunch a week early on Friday last week.

Editor-in-chief Geoff Martin, Mitzvah Day founder Laura Marks and reporters from the Ham&High, the Broadway, the Wood&Vale and the Islington Gazette used their lunch hour to visit St Mungo’s, in Adamson Road, Swiss Cottage, while wearing green Mitzvah Day T-shirts.

Sandwiches, bananas, baked beans, bread and cans of soup were among the lunch items donated to the hostel’s homeless residents, who all suffer from mental illnesses.

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The supported accommodation project, which is staffed 24 hours a day, has room for 21 vulnerable people, who stay there for as long as they need before moving into housing described as “lower supported”, where they do not require round-the-clock support.

There are never any empty beds at the centre, with someone moving in within a couple of weeks of a resident moving out.

Speaking about its work, manager Calum Freeman said: “St Mungo’s works together with other agencies to build confidence and self-esteem in the clients to try and instil them with hope.

“Mental illness is high in Camden. We know it’s higher than the national average, and so there is a demand for the beds.

“We would hope that when clients leave here, they feel comfortable in the community. We try to provide a safe and comfortable home because we want them to feel at home.

“There is a demand for the beds which is why it is important that people move on when they are ready so that other people can move in and benefit.”

Ms Marks, who founded Mitzvah Day UK in 2005, said she never knew the St Mungo’s centre was there, despite living in nearby Primrose Hill.

“I hope that people actually go and visit a shelter to make them think about what goes on behind the scenes in their local area and to then do something about it,” she said. “We collect so much stuff for charities, with which we have no connection, but it becomes much more meaningful when you understand why it is needed.”

To sign up your business, school, religious organisation or group for Give Away Your Lunch, visit at www.mitzvahday.org.uk or email gideon@mitzvahday.org.uk.