'Children as young as three' queueing for food at night soup kitchen in Glasgow, says charity boss

A homelessness charity boss has said he was shocked to see more than 10 children lining up for hot food at a Glasgow soup kitchen.

Colin McInnes, who co-founded Homeless Project Scotland in 2019, said it was a "reflection on today's politicians".

Mr McInnes claimed there were youngsters as young as three who had been brought along by their parents, as well as a child in a pram on Friday night.

He told Sky News: "It was a big shocker to us. My message to politicians is this: They need to step up and deal with this or step aside and let someone else deal with it."

Homeless Project Scotland (HPS) runs a soup kitchen seven nights a week under Glasgow's Hielanman's Umbrella next to Central Station in the city centre.

Mr McInnes claimed one mum made the trip from Paisley in Renfrewshire more than 10 miles away to stock up on food.

The charity chief added that he has noticed more people filling up bags with food so as they can freeze it to use later in the week.

He said: "We're feeding 310 people a day. We're the largest soup kitchen in Scotland and what's extremely difficult to understand is that it's only 20 minutes from Nicola Sturgeon's constituency."

The First Minister, who is MSP for Glasgow Southside, was reportedly invited to visit the soup kitchen more than a year ago but is yet to take up the offer.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "The first minister regularly visits and engages with different organisations and groups to help inform the Scottish government's efforts to tackle homelessness and the housing secretary visited Homeless Project Scotland last year.

"We're taking action to end homelessness in Scotland once and for all, and are working closely with Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, including meeting with them regularly to keep up to date with developments in the city."

The Scottish government added it is providing £52.5m to support local authorities in implementing rapid housing and Housing First approaches. Earlier this month it announced a further £2.4m to help those struggling to buy food amid the cost of living crisis.

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As well as the soup kitchen, Homeless Project Scotland also distributes sim cards for free phone calls and hygiene packages to those in need.

At the weekend, the charity's street team was sent to Edinburgh after a "high level" of rough sleepers were reported to its helpline.

Sky News has contacted City of Edinburgh Council for comment.

Mr McInnes said: "Edinburgh was pretty horrific. People are walking about with quilts under their arms - a quilt under your arm and a soggy pavement is not a home."

The Scotland-wide charity, which has 1,800 volunteers, uses money donated by members of the public to buy and cook food for the Glasgow soup kitchen.

It is currently on the lookout for a building in which to create a welfare centre that is open 24-hours a day, seven days a week.

Mr McInnes said: "It might give people hope and that sense of warmth that someone cares about them. We're not looking for a building for free, just one that's affordable."

The charity is appealing to Glasgow City Council, the Scottish government and private landlords for help.

Glasgow City Council said it has tried to find a building, however none of the options so far have been deemed suitable by the charity.

A spokesperson said: "We have tried to find a suitable building for HPS to host their evening soup kitchen, but they have rejected the three options offered to them.

"HPS recently told us they now want somewhere that can open round-the-clock with a capacity for over 200 people.

"We are very sorry, but we just don't have a place that matches the revised requirements set out by HPS."