Dorset

Bournemouth soup kitchen 'affecting tourism'

Soup kitchen in Bournemouth
Image caption The soup kitchen in the picturesque Lower Gardens serves hot meals and drinks to the town's homeless

The organiser behind a much-used soup kitchen in Bournemouth has vowed to continue operating at one of the town's beauty spots despite warnings from the local authority to move on.

Anastasia Wells runs the Street Light project in the Lower Gardens, cooking for up to 100 people each night.

"We're not going to stop," Ms Wells said. "It's just pure discrimination against the homeless."

Bournemouth Borough Council said there were other more appropriate sites.

Ms Wells is helped by her mother Rachel, preparing hot food and drinks. They pay for the ingredients themselves, and receive donations via a Facebook page.

Rachel Wells said locals had been supportive of the enterprise.

"No one's ever bothered... the clubbers and the hen parties that go by [make more noise].

"It's a soup kitchen but it's also a picnic in the park and it's very relaxed.

"I spend a lot of time with these guys and I don't want them to feel like they have to be hidden away. I think they should be treated as normal human beings."

Image caption Anastasia Wells accused the council of wanting to hide the homeless problem from view

David Smith, the cabinet member for planning and environment at the Conservative-run Bournemouth Borough Council, said: "The Lower Gardens are probably one of the best tourist spots we've got.

"Millions of visitors come there every year to visit and enjoy the ambience and we don't feel they are the best place to have a soup kitchen attracting up to 100 homeless people.

"We are working with them and suggesting they do find somewhere alternative to go but it's not always easy to find that location.

"There's plenty of soup kitchens already operating in and around the town centre and I think their resources could be put to much better use if they could link in with one of the existing charities."

But Ms Wells said she had no intention of leaving the gardens.

"They should be able to sit where everybody else sits, enjoy Bournemouth gardens, and be a part of the public.

"We're going to keep doing it."

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