A kind-hearted woman’s inability to turn a blind eye to the homeless has earned the support of hundreds in her community.
Retired nurse and mother-of-four Dottie Mistry sobbed when she passed a homeless man in Bury St Edmunds last November.
He was crying from cold and in ‘a pretty bad way’ and she decided to bring him some soup.
But she found three hungry people when she returned that night and soon made up her mind to return the following week with more food.
She took to Facebook to ask if anyone would like to join her and, before long, she had 300 willing volunteers.
Now the group – called Sunday Suppers – operates a rota system so everyone can take it in turns to help.
Worlington Hall Hotel has also got involved, preparing batches of food for 50 people at a time using ingredients provided by the group.
“We didn’t dream it would grow as it has and we’d be able to do as much, and we haven’t met any opposition which is wonderful,” said Mrs Mistry, of Beck Row.
“People are very interested because they see the homeless and don’t know what to do, and people don’t like giving them money.
“But the homeless don’t want money, they want people to give them a kind word, to recognise them as human beings – they talk about how people look down on them.”
Each week the group prepares hot food, sandwiches, cakes and drinks for around 25 hungry people in Bury, most of whom sleep rough.
They also give out packed lunches and a few return with snacks and hot drinks on Monday and Thursday nights to spend time with them in the doorways where they sleep.
Donations of clothes and toiletries have also been distributed, along with camping cookers which run on biofuel.
Mrs Mistry said job losses, marital breakdowns and house evictions were among the reasons people had given for being homeless.
“They’re just people who are more unfortunate than us – we’re all just one paycheck away from being homeless,” she said.
Mrs Mistry now wants to register Sunday Suppers as a charity so that she can apply for grant funding.
She is also planning to hold a sponsored ‘sleepathon’ in Bury on March 3 and hopes to raise enough money to pay for a day out for the homeless to Thetford Forest.