Soup kitchen launched in Thetford after homeless man’s tragic death

As temperatures plummet below zero, a new initiative to help the homeless in Thetford is being launched tonight.

St Cuthbert's Church and the YMCA will be providing a soup kitchen for the men and women facing a long and lonely night on the streets.

The launch follows the death of a 33-year-old homeless man on the outskirts of the town last December.

Mariusz Fidos, from Poland, was found dead in a tent on Barnham Cross Common, where a number of migrants had set up camp.

A year later, and there are still homeless people sleeping in woods, sheds and cars in the area, but the tragedy has raised awareness of the problem.

Sharon Plummer, Breckland's YMCA project development worker, is pioneering the soup kitchen with the help of Carl Clark, a local pastoral outreach worker.

Both know the perils of sleeping rough.

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Ms Plummer slept on the streets last winter during a YMCA fundraiser while Mr Clark took refuge in the forest four years ago after his marriage broke down.

'There are about 16 homeless people in Thetford that we know of,' he said. 'Some people think that if they don't see a problem, it's not there, but it is.'

A group of seven people seek shelter in the woods near Sainsbury's after moving from Barnham Cross Common, and four, thought to be Afghans, sleep rough on the Abbey Estate, Mr Clark said.

'There's also a family living in a car and a couple of people living in sheds,' he added.

The project, powered by a team of volunteers and YMCA funding, comes after the work of the Salvation Army and other churches with the homeless during the cruel winter of 2009.

Mr Clark said the shock death of Mariusz Fidos had spurred many into action and this was just the start.

'This is just a taster for other areas of need for the future as we aim to invest in people and build up their trust,' he said. 'We have prayer support for the work, which includes those from the nearby airbase who have been involved with similar, homeless initiatives in America,'

The soup kitchen could run several times a week, depending on the weather.

Home-made soup, rolls and hot drinks will be served at the church, in Well Street, from 10pm tonight.D

For more information contact: sharonplummer@ymca-norfolk.org.uk or office@bishop.norfolk.sch.uk.