Mansfield soup kitchen desperately seeks new premises as 'rent scam' leaves charity homeless

A soup kitchen that serves free meals to homeless people in Mansfield is urgently looking for a new premises in the town after being ‘conned out of thousands'.

Volunteers preparing food for the homeless at Mansfield Soup Kitchen.
Volunteers preparing food for the homeless at Mansfield Soup Kitchen.

Mansfield Soup Kitchen, currently based at 24-26 Church Street, opens its doors to feed the town’s homeless every Wednesday evening from 6.30pm.

The vital charity, which also has a shop in the town centre, also supplies rough sleepers with much-needed items including food parcels and toiletries.

But the service has recently been thrown into crisis after the owners discovered they had been victim to a rent scam – meaning they will soon be made homeless themselves.

Owners arrived one day to find the locks had been changed and the windows smashed.

The soup kitchen’s Sara Spalding said: “In February, we arrived at the soup kitchen to find the window smashed, locks changed and a court notice on the door.

“We discovered we had been conned out of thousands of pounds by two men who told us they owned the premises and land where the soup kitchen is situated.

“Unbeknownst to us, when we’ve been paying them rent since 2018 they’ve been pocketing the money for themselves and not passing it on to the true owner.”

A number of other premises in Church Street, White Hart Street and Dame Flogan Street were also served with the same notice earlier this year. Two men are being investigated for multiple counts of fraud.

The charity leaves a table of free food outside to help people who are struggling.

The soup kitchen, which has been operating since 2015, is now in dire need of a new home so it can continue to help the town’s most vulnerable residents.

Sara said: “We’ve had 17 new people in three weeks and most soup kitchens have seen their client numbers double in the past couple of months due to rising of living costs.

“We do so much more than just feeding the homeless now – we have a mini food bank and give food parcels, too. We have a table outside where anyone in need can help themselves to food.

“From the amount of people that take from the table to the amount back at home that share the food, there must be at least 100 to 200 people a day we help.

“There are parents struggling to feed themselves just to make sure the kids don’t go without, older couples struggling to get out and do a full shop or those whose pensions don’t quite stretch to fresh veg or fruit all the time.

“The true owner was more than happy for us to continue using the building for now, but gave us the heads up that the land is going through sale so we don’t have long left in there.

“After speaking with the council and Mayor, there is nothing they can do to help us.”

Plea for help

In an urgent plea for help from the local community, the charity has set up an online fundraising page to cover costs of the move.

They hope to pool the charity shop and soup kitchen under one roof to consolidate the overheads.

Sara added: “We can’t afford to pay two town centre rents, business rates, utility bills, insurances, BID membership and other costs, but if we can put the two businesses under one roof it brings it within reach.

“It’s just a matter of the community’s help in getting there. We just hope and pray that people will help. Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far, the kitchen and service users appreciate it.”

Donate to the Mansfield Soup Kitchen’s fundraising page at www.gofundme.com/f/movethesoupkitchenurgently

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