Hastings homeless helpers decide to quit

Chris Oliver and Kirsty Oliver at the Love Kitchen stand in Hastings town centre in July
Chris Oliver and Kirsty Oliver at the Love Kitchen stand in Hastings town centre in July

The organisers of a group who provided food and supplies to homeless people in Hastings have decided to quit amid fears of prosecution.

Love Kitchen, or Love Picnic, have been handing out sandwiches, hot drinks and clothes to homeless people in the town centre since February.

But recently the group have been coming under pressure from Hastings Borough Council to provide official documents and licences allowing them to serve food.

Organiser Chris Oliver has decided to pack it in due to fears the group would be prosecuted if they failed to gain the appropriate forms.

“The issue was a food registration form,” he said.

“We hadn’t refused to get it but we wanted to discuss it as a group, but I felt under-threat after seeing emails that had been sent out by councillors saying they wanted to prosecute us because we did not have the form.

“So I just thought, ‘lets not put ourselves at risk’, it would be stupid to go to prison for what we were doing.”

Mr Oliver wrote a lengthy Facebook post announcing the decision on Monday, September 7.

He thanked everyone who had helped the group with making sandwiches and donating clothes.

The council never actually threatened the group with prosecution explicitly but Mr Oliver said the emails were enough to make his mind up.

“When we got those emails we thought this is not what we set out to do,” he said.

“These people just want to help, we didn’t want to make a fuss.

“It’s very disappointing but in the council’s defence they didn’t say that but we just took the initiative.”

The last Love Kitchen was on Sunday, September 6.

Mr Oliver now hopes to go down the official route and become a registered charity so they can work with the council instead of against them.

“The plan was to get the community behind us but that sort of structure only has so far it can go so it needs a rethink,” he said.

“Sandwiches don’t deal with the problem – we did some good things, reached a lot of people and made the issue a top priority but we can do more so we will come back and be even better.

“Being militant isn’t the way to go, we should be more organised.

“We’re now looking at setting up a charity because we want to work with the council not fighting against them.

“We’ll come back under a different structure – it’s not the end of what we are doing but it is the end of Love Kitchen.”

The council have been approached for comment.

Hastings homeless helpers defy council

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