homeless men play ping pong next to a soup kitchen

Soup kitchen serving up music and sport wants to expand into south west London

An independent soup kitchen started by a victim of knife crime is looking to expand into south west London following success in Aldgate and Tottenham.

Vincent and Victoria Barnett, 47 and 41, from Islington, started Our Forgotten Neighbours last year after seeing rising homelessness around them.

Vincent was a victim of knife crime in his youth and spent his 18th birthday in prison, however, he turned his life around and now employs more than 100 people at his charity From Rehab to Life Foundation.

The homelessness service, which they hope to expand into south west London, has music and table tennis, creating a friendly atmosphere that is designed to help the mental health of users.

Victoria said: “It’s much more friendly, much more approachable, we like to get everyone involved.

“It’s gone from strength to strength.”

Seeing the extra challenge brought by the pandemic the couple felt compelled to make a difference, starting the charity from their own pocket.

“This is all just raw from us,” she said.

Vincent remarked on how easy it was to “fall on hard times”, saying that he had walked past friends of his he never thought would become homeless.

He said: “They have said my real name, and not many people know my full name.

“You wouldn’t imagine that he’d be homeless because he had a family structure.

“So with me from humble beginnings, it could happen to anybody.”

Currently they have not received any grants and instead rely on volunteers and food donations brought by the community.

They have also begun some fundraising using GoFundMe and their website.

The drive to expand their network comes as reports by Groundswell indicate there is fear among those in temporary accommodation that they will become homeless again when support for the Everyone In scheme dies out.

Research from Shelter also revealed one in seven adults are more worried about becoming homeless due to the pandemic.

Vincent had worked for other charities in direct debit fundraising but expressed his disappointment at how he feels money is wasted on bureaucracy.

He said he would guarantee at least 50p of every £1 donated went straight to the people they are helping.

You can follow them on Instagram @ourforgottenneighbours

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