The number of people getting handouts from a soup kitchen in Wolverhampton has rocketed over the last year as families struggle to make ends meet, it was revealed today.
In July the daily kitchen at the Darlington Street Methodist Church, run by charity Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, gave out 7,760 bowls of soup and food parcels.
This was up from 6,259 in July 2012, and the number of people using the service has almost doubled from an average of 150 each day in 2011 to almost 300 now.
The service has sparked complaints from business leaders who say crowds of people have been congregating in the street outside.
But organisers say they have now taken action to make sure visitors are not causing a nuisance following the complaints from the Wolverhampton Business Group, led by Henry Carver.
Food is now given to groups of people near the back of the premises and they are encouraged to leave the area once they have finished their meal.
Stephen Brennan from Little Brothers said the church had to balance coping with increasing demand and being ‘responsible neighbours’.
He said: “We have seen a huge increase in the number of people we are dealing with. People are really struggling and some of the people who visit us are panicking. We have a regular set of people who use the service but we are finding that a lot of people are coming to us for the first time.
“It is surprising how many people who visit us have children and it shows how difficult life is for some people at the moment.”
He said the steep rise in demand began last Autumn and that many residents in Wolverhampton were facing ‘tough times’ at the moment.
He added: “We have to be conscious of the wishes of businesses in the area and our neighbours and we are doing our best to address their concerns.”
Council bosses were in discussion with the charity about a possible move after complaints from businesses in recent years but organisers say they are staying put.
Mr Carver said: “We have had several meetings with the soup kitchen and they have agreed to change where people queue so they are not on the street, which is an improvement.”
He had previously said the people who use the service were vulnerable and needed to be looked after, just not in the city centre.