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Viral photo of freezing soup kitchen queue branded a ‘national failure’

Community group Kindness Homeless Street Team say 200 people queued for food in Glasgow's George Square in sub-zero temperatures on Monday
Kindness Homeless Street Team say more than 200 people queued up in sub-zero temperatures for food. Credit: Kindness Homeless Street Team

A shocking photo showing more than 200 people queuing in the snow for food at a soup kitchen just yards from Glasgow’s city chambers has been blasted as “an indictment of national failure”.

The image of queues for Kindness Homeless Street Team’s soup kitchen in Glasgow’s George Square has been shared thousands of times on social media after the community group revealed 220 people braved snow and sub-zero temperatures for help on Monday.

Social media users branded the photo “shocking and humiliating” while some compared it to Soviet Union in the 1930s.

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Andy Lockhard, the managing director of a finance company who volunteers for Kindness Homeless community group, told The Big Issue it was vital the community group “stepped up to the mantle”.

“Monday was a particularly busy night for us,” he said. “We served between 200 and 220 people. On Wednesday I reckon we will only see, and I say only because the numbers are so big, around 100 to 120 people tonight.

“I think it’s pretty scandalous that we are living in a society where poverty is on our doorstep and people are having to traipse out into the city centre to receive support from a community group. 

Glasgow soup kitchen queue
Volunteers described the queue as "pretty scandalous" as they work to feed people needing help during the pandemic. Credit: Kindness Homeless Street Team

“The problem is that if we don’t do it then who is going to? It’s about stepping up to the mantle and making sure that these people are supported and services are provided for them.”

Kindness Homeless Street Team has been running a soup kitchen operation throughout the pandemic, operating four nights a week even when temperatures hit -2°C as they did on Monday night.

A total of 25 volunteers worked to help the hundreds of people requiring help on Monday, serving up 100 sausage suppers donated from restaurants across the city. 

Laura McSorley, from Summerston, Glasgow, set up Kindness Homeless in October 2019 and last summer she received a Points of Light award from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who praised her for providing a “much-needed sense of comfort” during the pandemic.

But the group – who also kit out properties with furniture to help people move off the streets – has seen increasing demand from people needing food as Covid-19 continues to bring hardship.

Andy added: “This morning at 4:30am I was heading into Glasgow to provide hot drinks for two guys who are using scaffolding as shelter near George Square and it was -5.5°C this morning and those two guys are out 24/7. It’s just heart-breaking.”

The shocking photo of the queue has caused anger on social media where it has been shared thousands of times.

West Derby MP Ian Byrne shared the image with the hashtag #RighttoFood – the politician has led the movement for a human right to food to be recognised in the UK. So far, Liverpool and Manchester have signed up to become ‘Right to Food cities’ while campaigners are pressing for Birmingham to follow.

Byrne told The Big Issue: “The pictures are heart-breaking and show why the campaign for the Right to Food is so important.

“We need systemic change and the eradication of food poverty in our communities.”

Twitter user Joe Skeaping insisted the Scottish Independence debate had overshadowed poverty. He said: “We have spent 5+ years focusing on constitutional questions, when what we need is a government committed to tackling poverty and rebuilding the capacity of the state after a decade of austerity. It’s an indictment of national failure.”

Annie Hood said: “Shocking and humiliating for those forced into queuing to feed their families. This should be front page headlines. Shameful.”

David Crosbie added: “The world is getting worse instead of better.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson told The Big Issue they had spent £140 million targeting food insecurity during the pandemic, including £65m in Glasgow. But they also made calls for the Westminster Government to rethink welfare reforms driving food poverty.

“We have prioritised a cash-first approach to supporting people struggling to afford basics like food and fuel, including investing an additional £22 million in the Scottish Welfare Fund and giving local authorities flexibility to provide more cash support to people facing hardship.

“This makes clear the need to continue to tackle poverty and inequality. It is absolutely essential that the UK Government acts now to make permanent the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and extend it to people on other benefits. Removing this support risks pushing a further 60,000 people into poverty in Scotland and removes vital support when it is needed.

“The Scottish Government is working to ending the need for food aid through our commitment to bold measures to put more money in people’s pockets, including our new Scottish Child Payment and our commitment to the Fair Work Action Plan and promoting the real Living Wage.”