Next steps for Next Meal
A creative initiative that uses technology to connect homeless people with food and shelter is seeking to expand beyond London
How do you respond when you encounter someone who is homeless? Give some money? Buy a hot drink or some food? Walk on by?
Since October Londoners have had another option, thanks to some Baptist creativity and persistence – and the technology behind it could soon be used in other towns and cities.
Next Meal is a website which creates a database of London’s soup kitchens and harnesses GPS to direct homeless people to their nearest hot meal.
It’s the brainchild of Martin Stone, who leads the Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen at Muswell Hill Baptist Church.
Alongside the website he has created small cards for people to give to those who are begging for money. The cards state the Next Meal website address, which people can then access on their phones (which many homeless people have) or through a library.
‘It’s a simple thing,’ Martin explains. ‘We are saying to the homeless person, "We are sorry you are homeless, but here’s something that will help you – information about where you can get meals throughout the week."
‘As Christians we can’t walk on by. This is a way of being compassionate without giving away money that you can’t trust where it goes.
‘So we say to people – don’t give money – give them a Next Meal card. It is more valuable than money.’
Next Meal came about when Martin wondered one day whether the same technology that told you when the next bus would arrive could “answer the question where is the next meal coming from?”
He pitched the idea to a city tech expert, who worked on the website in his free time.
Next Meal launched last autumn and has already started to make an impact, being embraced by homeless people and Londoners alike who want to help those in need.
Now Martin and his team want to take the Next Meal to the next level. Details are being gathered so it can be available in towns and cities across the country.
Martin says his team wants to cast the net wider to other cities, spread the word further and explore new ways to exploit technology.
‘Our primary aim is to help people who are homeless or in acutely difficult circumstances,’ he said.
‘Many homeless people have phones, so Next Meal helps them directly.
‘It also empowers people to respond to street homelessness by locating the nearest food and support.
‘People want to know how to respond. Ultimately we are trying to reduce street homelessness and change the culture.’
To order a pack of Next Meal cards, or for more information, contact Martin on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out more on the Next Meal Facebook page