Food bank stocks at all-time low as Green's leader declares Cannock Chase has 'hidden' homelessness problem
The co-leader of the Green Party has claimed homelessness is a ‘hidden problem’ after visiting one of the district’s food banks which is struggling to cope with the demand.
Jonathan Bartley spoke with people at the Pye Green Christian Centre in Cannock Chase during a visit where he was told cuts to drug and alcohol services as well as an increase in gambling addictions, among other factors, were draining their supplies.
They have given out nearly 16 tonnes of food this year helping more than 2,300 people in the district.
However they have just 4.4 tonnes of food in their warehouse, which they described as their lowest ever since launching in 2012.
Mr Bartley said: “Homelessness appears to be prevalent here.
“I have spoke to a number of rough sleeps who have told me about dozens of people they know who are also homeless.
“It seems to be a pretty hidden problem. Either the local authority are not aware of it or they are choosing to ignore it.
“We should be listening more to these people at the sharp end.
“Single males in particular appear to be at the bottom of the list and more needs to be done to help them.”
He added: “Being at Cannock foodbank has been completely inspiring seeing what they have been doing.
“I have been meeting ex-addicts who have been helped in a range of ways which helps promote their self belief and confidence.
“It is amazing to see how lives can be transformed but at the same time it is tragic to learn the food bank is short of food and struggling to meet demand.
“I spoke to one woman who called up to say she had bought her child’s uniform but could not afford food. People should not have to make these choices.”
The food bank also listed delays in benefits payments as well as an increase of single people due to family breakdown’s as other reasons leading to a rise in demand.
Cannock Chase District Councillor Paul Woodhead, who leads the district’s Green Party, joined him.
He said: “Listening to people’s stories it is clear they are not that far removed from ourselves.
“There are many people who choose to sleep rough because it is better than some of the hostels they can be provided with. With some of them if you are not drug dependent they are not interested.
“But they don’t want state handouts they just want help to help themselves.
“It is partly the responsibility of the county council, district council and NHS.
“But the joined up approach isn’t helping people being shifted around the system.”
Cannock and District was set up with the help of the Trussell Trust five years ago.
Since then they have collected 172 tonnes of food from schools, churches, supermarkets, businesses and individuals.
They have given out a total of 167 tonnes helping more than 16,000 people.
Their website states: “We don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry.
“That’s why we provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to us in crisis.”
More information is available at annockdistrict.foodbank.org.uk