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Worker's rage at six months of inaction with former homeless shelter

By Kent and Sussex Courier  |  Posted: January 07, 2013

By Matthew Young matthew.young@courier.co.uk

  • NOT HAPPY: Tess Negri at the former site of The Soup Bowl in Crescent Road

  • SIGN OF ANGER: A close-up of Tess Negri's notice

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THE former deputy manager at Tunbridge Wells's only homeless shelter has hit out on the six-month anniversary of its forced closure.

Boarded up and unused, The Soup Bowl on Crescent Road, which for 25 years offered respite for the homeless and needy, has remained untouched since its users were evicted by the borough council on June 30.

Tess Negri had to accept the eviction notice but is now furious the building has been left empty, and says it could have been used to help townsfolk most in need of warmth and comfort.

"It's cold and getting colder," she said.

"I always said the council had been good and let us have it rent free for 25 years but then somebody suddenly decided it wasn't flavour of the month any more – it's just such a shame."

A pool of about 40 volunteers worked at The Soup Bowl to provide warmth, respite, food and drink to the homeless, unemployed and destitute.

Volunteers now take to the streets to provide food and drink, using Crescent Road Car Park, as well as St James' and St Augustine's churches.

But as nights get ever colder, The Soup Bowl's void becomes more apparent, said Mrs Negri.

"It's difficult this time of year," she said.

"It's been closed for six months now and the council has done nothing with it, and that's the point.

"We could've been using it all this time.

"We improved that place – we put the heating in and re-did the floor.

"All the time we were using it, it was improving."

To illustrate her point and in an attempt to keep the issue alive, she has now taken action by pinning up photographs on the council's hoardings of how the building used to look when it was a shelter. Along with the photo Mrs Negri has posted a message reading: "Welcome to the Soup Bowl.... but sadly no longer. Closed for six months. But what for? It's cold and getting colder. Shouldn't we be helping the homeless?"

Mrs Negri said: "What I used to feel was The Soup Bowl was a place of warmth and friendship and they could come and sit, talk and have a cup of tea and a sandwich.

"It's had an effect on them and they do miss it.

"The numbers have doubled at the food banks since The Soup Bowl closed."

No one from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was available to comment when contacted by the Courier.

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