A local council in Dorset, England, shut down a charity group that handed out hot meals to the homeless because they didn’t have a licence, threatening the group with prosecution.
Help for Homeless, a group of charitable cooks based in Dorchester, had been handing out home-cooked lunches to the homeless for the past four years, before drawing the ire of the local council.
Police put the kibosh on the charity group, claiming that home-cooked meals didn’t go through food hygiene inspections and therefore could possibly endanger the homeless.
“They said we were putting ourselves at risk from a liability point of view if someone got food poisoning”, said Rebecca Hobby, one of the group’s organisers.
“I asked the lady if we could continue and she said ‘no, we are shutting you down’,” Hobby explained.
“We were then told by the police officer that if we didn’t stop and had a case of food poisoning we could ‘end up in the dock and that’s not a nice place to be’. We were told then that was going to be our last food run and we are not to continue. We were stunned,” she concluded.
Some in the group believe that the reason they were shut down was the group’s proximity to the local council office.
“We aren’t selling the food, we are normal people just trying to give hungry people a hot meal and they are chucking all this red tape at us,” said Helper Stuart Campbell, a 46-year-old postman.
“I think it is disgusting. I think the council don’t want it outside their offices”, he alleged.
After public pressure, the council backed down and decided to let the group continue to operate, though insisted that the group would have to go through a food hygiene course.
“I think the council could have handled it differently. We aren’t against the council but there has to be a compromise here surely. We do this off our own back and rely on donations. It doesn’t cost the taxpayer anything,” said Hobby.
“As long as they get a hot meal they don’t care where it has been cooked. They would be eating out of a bin if we weren’t there,” she said.