Mansfield woman who was homeless aged 14 commended for her Street Kitchen support
Homelessness is more than just a question of where you’re going to sleep at night. It’s about also being ‘off the radar’ in terms of health, safety and financial support.
And whilst a number of national charities work tirelessly to provide shelter for people sleeping rough, sometimes it’s down to local people to offer that lifeline support for the homeless.
This notion has not gone amiss for Mansfield woman Tracy Dickinson Wheeldon, who has set up her own street kitchen to support those sleeping rough in Mansfield, Nottingham and the rest of our county after experiencing homelessness first hand.
Tracy, 52, spent much of her teenage years homeless after falling through the cracks in the care and fostering systems – a period she describes as a “dark time” in her life.
But having experienced life on the streets herself, she knew three years ago that she needed to give something back, having “not received much support” herself when she was without a home.
So in 2016, she helped set up Tracy’s Street Kitchen, an organisation which offers lifeline support to people sleeping rough, particularly around Christmas time with food, warmth and conversations aplenty.
Kindhearted Tracy, of Littleworth, says supporting people on the streets is “vitally important” as they often have nowhere to turn to.
“We started the street kitchen in October 2016 after I realised there was not a lot of support out there for people who are homeless”, she said.
“I was homeless for three-and-a-half years aged just 14 after being in and out of the care system, and after an abusive foster family I ended up on the streets.
“When I was on the streets there wasn’t a lot of support for people like me, which is why work like this is vitally important in supporting the vulnerable people who have nowhere to turn.
“Through supporting people in Nottingham and Mansfield I get regular phone calls about people in need of dire support, and just this month heard about someone who died on the streets. It’s horrible.”
Nottingham city has more than 200 people sleeping on the streets every night, but Tracy’s kitchen looks to support them with “good quality, nutritional food and a friendly face”.
And in recognition of her work supporting the homeless during the festive period, Tracy has been commended by food service provider Bidfood.
Having worked over the festive season every year since she opened the charity food bank, she has given up valuable time with her loved ones to give others a Christmas to remember, cooking for more than 150 homeless people on Christmas Day.
The judges could see Tracy’s commitment to support her local community and the people in it, not only by going the extra mile in her day job, but also by constantly putting the homeless people she works with before herself.
As one of the winners of Bidfood’s Christmas Gift this year, Tracy has been gifted dinner at a restaurant of her choice for her whole team to enjoy, as well as a Virgin Experience voucher.
“It is so incredible to be recognised for all the hard work that myself and the team have done over the last few years”, Tracy added.
“It has been amazing to see how the street kitchen has grown over the last three to four years since it opened and it is so wonderful to know that we have helped so many people in need across our community.
“I truly love what I do and our little family that we have created with the team and the visitors that attend our kitchen regularly.”
For more information on Bidfood’s Christmas Gift, see www.bidfood.co.uk/bidfood-christmas-gift