Many homeless Londoners are forced to rely on food banks or the kindness of passers-by. But on Tuesday clients at the Marylebone Project were served a pre-Christmas treat lunch of mezze, pasta and burgers — brought along by Deliveroo co-founder Will Shu and a fleet of his riders.
The refuge, run by the Church Army, helps thousands of women to cope with homelessness every year, offering a drop-in day centre, 112 private bedrooms, support services and practical skills workshops.
About 40 of the women visiting the service each day are rough sleepers. They often arrive hungry and dehydrated, which fuels health problems.
Mr Shu ate with the project’s clients after delivering the 80-meal feast — Deliveroo’s biggest for London this week. The delivery also gave the centre’s chefs a break from preparing lunch.
Mr Shu chatted to Layla Taman, who spoke about how she was evicted from her home in Ealing when her landlord decided to sell up.
Ms Taman, 56, secured a room at the Marylebone Project. She also cares for her grown-up son, who is deaf, and lives in a cramped flat with barely enough room himself.
She said: “It’s very nice to meet each other, we’re in the same situation, all of us have the same problems. I really appreciate how the staff work so hard every day to provide us a lunch.”
Phillippa Middleton, operations manager at the Marylebone Project, said: “It’s absolutely amazing, a takeaway is the kind of food these women will never get the opportunity to have in the situation where they are at the moment.
“For them it’s not only nice to have a lunch but it says so much to them, that we see you and we value you, because a lot of the time they feel invisible.
“Especially having the CEO coming shows that people recognise you, want to help you and give what they can, they think you’re worth all this. It will be something they remember, probably forever.”
Mr Shu said: “I wanted to spend time with these women just to understand their stories. I’m a lot more fortunate than some other people so we try to help out the most we can.”
Deliveroo has donated £50,000 towards our appeal, which will go towards a 24-hour drop-in shelter for women and other initiatives from the new London Homeless Collective, the coalition of London’s leading homeless charities.