'There is serious shame in being starving': Pregnant woman and homeless man traipse across Northampton for food

Deafconnect CEO Joanna Steers' staff have given up their own lunch for people who have come through their doors starving.
Deafconnect CEO Joanna Steers' staff have given up their own lunch for people who have come through their doors starving.

A heavily pregnant woman, a man that was made homeless after his wife left him and a woman with mental health issues are all among the service users asking for food in Spencer.

Deafconnect took over the management of Spencer Dallington Community Centre seven years ago and had made a commitment to support its residents - through a small community cafe serving tea and biscuits.

Having seen the need rise for their cafe the charity teamed up with Fair Share - an organisation that helps shops to get rid of unwanted food for local people in need. As of 18 months ago Lidl started to supply the centre with an abundance of bakery products, occasional cupboard items, fruit and vegetables for people to help themselves to.

These are put on a table at the front door, and anybody is allowed to take food for a small donation, in turn for petrol money for volunteers to pick up waste food from the supermarkets.

Now, one hundred people come and go every week - grabbing sometimes a snack, or bag filled with food.

"We have all these people who are coming in and they are starving," Deafconnect CEO Joanna Steer tells this reporter. "There is serious shame in being starving."

A heavily pregnant woman is one of them.

"She stood gorging herself with bread before she could explain that she had eaten nothing for a few days as all she had she gave to her three children," Joanna said.

Although her children had access to school lunches the expectant mother apparently described her little ones as being "constantly hungry", all made worse because she would get no money from Universal Credit for another month.

"She asked if I knew anywhere that could supply her with baby clothes and nappies," Joanna added.

"I suggested the Salvation Army for clothes, and they might know where she could get nappies but she had used up all the Food Bank vouchers she was allowed so that wasn’t an option."

Another man, who lives locally, split with his wife, lost his job and found himself homeless.

"He was one of the lucky ones who was quickly rehoused by the borough but had nothing in his flat, literally nothing.

"Spencer Contact gave him a bed and a few other items but he still had no fridge and cooker and with Universal Credit not kicking in for weeks, he too found his way to our table."

Other stories include an ex-nurse who had fallen ill and lost her job and a mental health patient who has fallen into the poverty trap and had her benefits stopped completely.

"Our open door policy brings in stories that break your heart.

"My staff have regularly given up their lunch for a person who has nothing to feed themselves or their children."

The community cafe still operates once a week but is struggling to find enough meat and vegetables to cook wholesome meals. If you can help in collecting food, or even help to cook during the school holidays, then call Deafconnect on 01604 589011.