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Soup kitchen set to offer mental health advice

The first ever mental health drop-in centre inside a soup kitchen has been launched in London in a bid to help combat the mental health issues faced by the homeless.

The centre at The Soup Kitchen at the American International Church in Whitfield Street in London will employ a Counselling Psychologist and a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, all funded by a crowdsourcing campaign organised by local advertising business MKTG.

Counselling Psychologist, Dr Brett Grellier (CPsychol, MSc, BA (hons)) and CBT and EMDR Therapist, Dobrochna Zajas (MSc, PGDip) will work at the Soup Kitchen in Whitfield Street offering evidence based psychological therapies to those of who need it most.

The team have been on site since late 2018 getting to know guests while the initiative sought planning permission to build a small consultation room in the courtyard of the soup kitchen.

Courtesy of planning permission from Camden Borough Council, the consultation room is now fully installed, and the team are ready to open the doors.

Dr Brett Grellier and Dobrochna will make a significant impact and demonstrate the positive outcomes over the course of the innovative pilot scheme:

Our aim is to build rapport, relationships and dialogue with the people who use the soup kitchen daily and who are most in need of our services.

The therapy we will offer has been proven to work over the long term inside the NHS and hostel settings, and we are confident we can re-engage some of our guests with their mental health issues.

I’m so proud to be a part of this scheme which aims to accelerate homeless people along the path back to health, back their families should they so wish, back to work and off the streets.

The reduction of funding for mental health services, social care and outreach in the NHS is one of the reasons that homeless people are much more visible now (up by 169% since 2010).

In a survey of homeless sector workers and people using homeless services, Brett’s team found that 95% of homeless people have experience four or more adverse childhood experiences, compared to only 10% of the non-homeless populations.

Despite the great need, being homeless reduces the likelihood of being seen by a mental health professional, making sufferers even more likely to remain of London’s 180,000 rough sleepers or sofa surfers.

This fact was the inspiration for the initiative and the crowdfunding campaign “Save By Soup”, which launched in August 2017 on Chuffed.org to raise £30,000 the campaign.  The total raised has now reached more than £35,000.

Alexander Brown, the Director of the kitchen and its parent charity The Whitefield Charity SK Corporation, said:

Having spent so much time with London’s homeless population, I know how crucial this new service will be.

Nearly 80% of rough sleepers suffer from some form of mental health illness due to high levels of traumatisation and if we can change the lives of even a few of those, this project will be an absolute success.

It has been such a long process and we could not have made this happen without MKTG and Michael Brown’s determination and all the wonderful donors who contributed to this project. I’m so genuinely happy for our guests to be able to have this new treatment option available.

Image: MKTG

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Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise communications.