Cath and Ken cook up a storm in Food Kitchen
The Grimsby Food Kitchen is a haven for those in need. Reporter FAYE PRESTON works a shift at the much-valued service.
DESPITE it being the middle of summer, it is a typically cold and wet day in Grimsby.
But along Hainton Avenue, comforting warmth is spilling out of a building that is always open.
Laughter echoes onto the street and the smell of hot, home-made food lingers in the air.
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I am standing outside the Open Doors centre and I am about to start a shift at the Grimsby Food Kitchen.
For a lot of people, the idea of spending the afternoon with people battling drug and drink addictions, ex-criminals and the homeless could – justifiably – be intimidating.
But the environment caring Christians Cath and Ken Homewood have created here make the experience the polar opposite.
For the people here, this isn't just the only hot meal they will eat all week, it is also the most human contact they will have in that time, too. The benefit it is having on them is obvious.
Last time I was here, alcoholic Carl Hancock, 37, had just moved to Grimsby and had been sleeping rough in a tent with his girlfriend. That was a year ago.
Now they have both been sober for four months, have a place of their own and rather than receiving a portion of hot pie and mushy peas, Carl is armed with a ladle dishing out the delicious meals himself and he does it every week.
Carl said: "I am now a regular volunteer to make things easier for Cath. It gives her a break – although she is definitely still the boss!
"I get a lot of satisfaction from it and feel like I am giving something back to the people who helped me out so much.
"I feel like everything is going right and I have Cath and Ken to thank for that."
The change in Carl is noticeable. He looks well and he has a sparkle in his eye that can only be hope and optimism for the future.
I roll up my sleeves and get to work, following Carl and fellow volunteer Steve Sadler's lead.
My job is to dish out mushy peas. Steve berates me for giving out portions that are too small.
"Pile it on, he wants more than that! He hasn't eaten all week!" he said.
The man he is referring to is underweight and smiles gratefully as I dollop on an extra spoonful.
This place is much more than a food kitchen. It is a safe place for these people, who know they can rely on Cath and Ken to help them.
Peter Whittaker, 32, lives alone in a one-bedroom flat in Grimsby. He is unemployed and survives on minimal benefits, which do not stretch to essentials such as heating and hot water.
For a while, his choice was food or warmth – until Cath and Ken bought him a heater out of their own pocket during last year's winter.
Peter said: "I struggle but they help me so much. I have such a lot of respect for them. If it were not for them, I would just have beans on toast every day. They make such a big difference to me.
The time is flying by and Steve lets me take a break for a chat with Cath, who is bursting with pride at being awarded a five-star rating for hygiene by North East Lincolnshire Council.
As reported, Cath began the food kitchen seven years ago out of the back of a van on a Grimsby car park.
But after people complained about the "type of people" it was attracting, they were given a weekly slot at Open Doors.
It continues to grow thanks to donations from the public and it has developed into a place for sending the people she helps to a rehabilitation centre to free them of drugs and alcohol.
"We have come a long way since the days of the car park," Cath said.
"We have been up against it at times but we haven't given up because we would never turn our backs on them. They are all too precious to us.
"To do anything like this, it has got to come from the heart. We got offered if we wanted to be paid for it but we said no. This isn't a job to us, we are not in it for money as it would take the compassion we have away.
"We are so encouraged to see everyone working together and volunteering. It shows how far they have all come."
Claire Davey, 29, has known Cath and Ken for six years after meeting them at church.
She has suffered her problems but thanks to their support, her life is back on track.
She said: "They are always on the end of the phone. We couldn't ask for better people in our lives."
Cath and Ken would like to thank all the people who continue to support them, including James Kurz, who recently completed a half-marathon, Bob Mclean of Daniel's Group, who donates soup every week and Rob Taylor, who will be doing a coast-to-coast bike ride to raise money for them.