Once a week, in our Storehouse Café (normally on a Tuesday, but please check in advance for opening days in school holidays) we provide a delicious free hot lunch for up to 30 people. It's a safe place to relax for those who are homeless or struggling financially. We also offer a shower and changing facility.

Margaret Loughlin heads up the Link Lunch. She’s been running it since 2010, initially in the town centre and then at the Vineyard.

What inspired you to start the project?

I helped with a project called Winter Warmth that provided dinner, bed and breakfast for homeless people during January – March. At the end of the three months, I realised that three-quarters were going back on the streets, and increasingly felt the urge to do something, even though I didn’t know if I had the capabilities.

 

Who are the people you serve?

It’s an amazing ministry because we’re touching the often-unseen people of Aylesbury. About half of them are homeless, without a place of their own, or just don’t get into the norm. They either ‘sofa surf’ or sleep on the street. The other half may have a bedsit, or a room somewhere on their own, but are struggling financially — often, their benefits have been cut. I find it hard sometimes that society can’t help them a little more. Some have been affected by the austerity measures, some fall between the cracks in the benefits system and others miss out on a bedsit because they don’t meet certain criteria.

Some of the clients are very lonely, so they like having a place to hang out, talk and sit with us while having something to eat in a safe place where they know they’re loved. So it’s not all about the food — for some it’s more about the company, as we may be the only people to talk to them that day. Some don’t even know who their parents are, they may not come from this area or their families could be very dysfunctional. Many of us take it for granted that we can pop round and see our aunty or grandma, but you realise there’s a small pocket of people who don’t have anyone.

How do you build a relationship with the people you serve?

Initially it’s about building trust. So many people have been promised things in their lives and then been let down. They may never have had true friendship. So from the moment I started, I never promised anything. If they wanted something, I’d reply ‘We can’t promise, but we’ll do our utmost to help you.’ It showed them we were genuine, that we weren’t just saying it. If they trust you, then you’ve won their hand in friendship.