Housing

Crystal Palace kick off cooking classes for homeless people

The football club's charity has teamed up with homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support to boost cooking skills

Crystal Palace homeless cooking class

Residents at Evolve's supported housing service have been learning cooking skills to boost their independence and employment prospects. Image credit: Evolve Housing + Support

Crystal Palace football club is giving homeless people in Croydon the chance to boost their kitchen skills with the launch of a new 12-week cooking course.

The club’s charity Palace for Life Foundation and homelessness charity Evolve Housing + Support joined forces to kick off the socially distanced course teaching residents in Evolve’s supported housing service in south London how to create healthy and nutritious meals.

Evolve resident and former chef Ryan Francis, 48, got the chance to share his skills in the kitchen with the class. He said: “I feel like I can actually see a light at the end of my tunnel now. I’m coming to the end of my time in this place and I should be getting my own place soon. I know I’ve got no other choice but to make it work. I’ve got all the skills to make it, so just watch this space.”

Two of Evolve’s homeless residents draw on their culinary experience to lead the class. The pair share basic cooking skills with other residents to teach them how to make prawn salads, chicken curry, barbecue chicken with rice and apple crumble with ice cream in the first weekly session.

Evolve director of operations Alice Hainsworth said the course, which started in April, offers the potential to learn vital skills that can boost independence – a key part of “breaking the cycle of homelessness” – as well as improving employability.

Crystal Palace homeless cooking course Ryan Francis
Ryan Francis Evolve Crystal Palace
Ryan Francis (left) has had chance to develop his cooking skills through the course. Image credit: Evolve Housing + Support

She said: “The trauma of being street homeless can have a terrible effect on a person, but often these people just need support and skills to become independent again.

“Thanks to the generosity of Crystal Palace, the people at our homelessness service will learn new skills that they get to keep forever.”

Football has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently. Big clubs have faced accusations of a “massive disconnect” from their local communities after four of England’s biggest clubs threatened to breakaway as part of the failed European Super League.

But Premier League side Crystal Palace has a history of helping vulnerable people in their local community.

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Palace for Life’s Palace Kitchen donated £1,000 to cover the running costs for Evolve’s course. The club’s charity set up the Palace Kitchen food project during the Covid-19 pandemic to 15,000 deliver meals to vulnerable people.

It is not the first time Crystal Palace have given local homeless people a hand up either, opening its Selhurst Park stadium to provide shelter for rough sleepers in 2019.

Palace for Life chief executive, Mike Summers said: “Not only will the sessions teach residents new skills but will also allow them to eat healthy food and do so together, which will hopefully boost their levels of comfort and self-esteem.”

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