Customers can pay in advance for a meal at a Northampton café for those who cannot afford one

Chef Andrew Newitt started up the suspended meal and drink scheme where customers can buy for the homeless in advance.
Chef Andrew Newitt started up the suspended meal and drink scheme where customers can buy for the homeless in advance.

A community café in Northampton is operating a suspended meal scheme - where customers can pay in advance for homeless people to claim later.

The goodwill initiative operates from the Relax and Unwind community café at the Doddridge Centre in St James, where customers can buy a meal and drink for someone who might be homeless or on a very low income.

Andrew (pictured at the Relax and Unwind cafe) is urging more people to  make use of the scheme during the cold snap.

Andrew (pictured at the Relax and Unwind cafe) is urging more people to make use of the scheme during the cold snap.

Bosses say the café has become a social hub for customers from all walks of life and has seen many people combat loneliness and make friends, especially during this week's cold snap.

Cook Andrew Newitt said: "We also receive donations by friends and customers - however small - that keeps the suspended scheme moving to enable us to provide this service for homeless people.

"We have been in contact with the temporary homeless shelter at the railway club and they also refer homeless people to us, as do outreach.

"As the main meal is only £3.50 and a drink is 70p as you can imagine a small donation goes a long way."

As well as providing a friendly face to chat with, the cafe can also direct people to the relevant associations and charities based at the centre to help to improve their quality of life.

On Fridays the café hosts a board game get-together where residents, vulnerable people and their carers can go to have a chat - and every Christmas owners put on a carol concert for the community.

He added: "We are very keen to promote our suspended meal scheme as the weather has recently proved that this an invaluable service to the homeless and we have seen a welcome increase of homeless visitors staying to keep warm and having lunch with us.

"We have had family members knitting Christmas tree decorations that we sold at £1.50 each that helped us grow the fund - but any promotion and invitations to donate would be most welcome to keep this service running."

The cafe is open every week from Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 3.30pm.