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Massive rise of Keighley people in poverty trap
6:00am Tuesday 24th December 2013 in Keighley
Charities in Keighley providing a lifeline to the needy have seen an unprecedented surge in demand as soaring numbers of townspeople plunge into poverty.
About 100 food parcels a week – twice the number of a year ago – are now being handed out at Salvation Army drop-in sessions.
A weekly soup kitchen – run in Keighley by the Intouch Found-ation – has seen a twofold increase in its users.
And an organisation that provides winter shelter to the homeless has revealed demands for its service have also rocketed.
Chris Bown, development manager at the Salvation Army’s High Street centre, said: “We can’t keep up with the number of people coming through the door.
“The need has absolutely soared. The amount we are now doing is massive.”
Changes to the welfare benefits system are among the reasons cited for the whopping upsurge in people desperately seeking help.
“We are seeing a lot more Job Centre referrals as people are ‘sanctioned’ and lose benefits for several weeks,” said Mrs Bown.
“General increases in food and fuel prices are also hitting people really hard.”
In addition to the Thursday drop-in sessions, when it is mostly individuals who receive parcels, the Salvation Army distributes between 30 and 40 packages a week to families referred from agencies.
Earlier this year it was revealed some Keighley families have as little as £5 a week to feed themselves.
Mrs Bown said the amount of food being donated to the organisation had also risen, and she paid glowing tribute to everyone providing vital support.
“It’s fantastic how much we get – every day we receive a delivery of food from someone,” she added. “People have been so generous.
“Churches, schools and other organisations help us, and Sainsbury’s is extremely supportive. Without this backing from the community, we would not be able to provide the help we do.”
She said there are particular items they are always short of, such as tinned meat and fish, rice pudding, cereals and sugar.
Goods can be taken to the Salvation Army centre or to Sainsbury’s in Cavendish Street.
The Intouch Foundation, which operates a mobile soup kitchen at Church Green every Wednesday evening, has never been as busy.
Khurm Mehzar, for the scheme, said: “When we launched in Keighley in April, we were serving about 40 to 50 people – now the figure is about 80.
“The benefits people are receiving are not sufficient to pay their gas or electricity and other bills and still have enough left for food.”
Meanwhile, the homeless are again being helped by the Inn Churches’ winter shelter project.
Eighteen churches across the Keighley and Bradford district – including All Saints’ at Highfield – are opening up for a week to provide shelter and meals.
The project, which began earlier this month and runs until the end of March, is limited to taking 12 referrals each week.
But joint local co-ordinator, Alan Mottershead, revealed: “There are more people becoming victims of homelessness and needing the service.
“People lose their jobs or benefits and then things can spiral and become very difficult.”
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