The Duchess of Northumberland has officially opened a refurbished facility for the homeless on Tyneside.
The Duchess was at the People’s Kitchen in Newcastle yesterday to unveil a number of improvements which have been carried out at the site in the last two years.
The charity’s Alison Centre base has been refurbished in three phases with new food preparation and cooking area completed in 2011.
A new food warehouse is now operating away from the site, at Armstrong Industrial Estate in Newcastle, having opened in May.
Finally, improvements have been carried out to the site itself, with provision of a new clothing store, an extended goods reception warehouse, a consultation room for one-to-one with ‘friends’ - the centre’s users, signposting for accommodation and healthcare provision, and new facilities for volunteer training and administration offices.
The Duchess was joined at the opening by fellow patron the Bishop of Newcastle The Right Reverend Martin Wharton, volunteers at the centre, friends and the Caedmon Choir, based at the Sage Gateshead, which sang Christmas carols.
The duchess paid tribute to the work done by the charity, set up in 1985.
She told The Journal of the “important job” the People’s Kitchen does.
“What is extraordinary is that they are still surviving and expanding when there are more people than ever who need the People’s Kitchen which is really sad in 21st Century North East life that we need the People’s Kitchen as much as we do.
“The People’s Kitchen would not survive without the hundreds who are volunteering and the people who give food. It is great there are so many caring people.”
Long term unemployed epileptic Glyn Brain, 56, of Fenham, has used the centre for three years for food and clothing after his jobseekers allowance and council tax were stopped, leaving him with no income.
Mr Brain, who lives alone, said: “I love it, it is great. It gets me out the house. The variety of people is fantastic.”