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Cooking up a plan

March 2nd 2015

Chef, Antoine and trainees in the Providence Row kitchen. ©Jane Evans

As Darren talks about his work in the Providence Row’s kitchen, carried out under the sharp eyes of a local expert chef, you wouldn’t believe that he’d recently spent 18 months sleeping rough.

He’s come a long way since the days when, having been made redundant and unable to pay the rent, he was kicked out of his private let. He found himself on the streets, and losing hope fast. When a friend told him about Providence Row, Darren was struggling with a gambling problem: “I was lower than low.” he says. Now, he’s cooking... in more ways than one.

Providence Row, founded in London’s East End in 1860, has developed beyond its soup kitchen roots and is now a “one-stop support, advice and training facility”.

Darren works in the kitchen with other homeless and vulnerably-housed people, making breakfast and lunch with chef Antoine from the neighbouring Andaz Liverpool Street Hotel. Darren says: “Cooking here is like something I’m giving back.”

The rules here are strict but simple: “Knives point to the floor and everybody gets on,” he laughs.

Dom Gates, training scheme manager, says Providence Row is unique in that it works with those who are still using drugs, or have undiagnosed mental health issues.

He explains: “We never work with people in crisis, but we work with people who have those issues, because when people start doing something meaningful and making good use of their time, it gives them more of a reason to start dropping the drug use. We can support them at the same time.”

Providence Row are based in arguably one of the richest square miles in the world and they’re not shy about tapping local industry. The charity currently works with Rothschild and recently provided a placement for one young woman in a five-star hotel. She has since got a job at Pret à Manger.

The charity has also started a bakery delivering bread, cakes and pastries around Brick Lane on a branded bike.

So far, 30 clients have been involved in the new service, helping with everything from set-up and business planning, to the design of the logo. And if Darren is anything to go by, Providence Row’s projects really work: “I feel more positive about myself,” he says.

“On many occasions, walking up and down the street, I say to people sleeping rough, ‘Do you know about this place called Providence Row?’ Sometimes I actually help them to get there, and then they get help themselves.”

If you, or someone you know, could benefit from Providence Row’s services, visit or call 020 7375 0020.


March 2015



Advice: Gambling it all

Need to know: drugs

Focus: Arts with benefits

Readers give their views

Authorities held to account

Emmaus launches new centre

Norway drops begging laws

Award-winning storage

US woman walks for justice

Man shot for throwing rocks

Homeless people urged to register to vote

Football dreams

Homeless man set on fire

Locals mourn ‘car lady’

City-wide hostel upgrade

Weekend drop-in closes doors

Cooking up a plan

London fights back

Soup runs: a reader replies

Private protection


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