7 Dec 2014

Spectrum for 7 December 2014

From Spectrum, 12:05 pm on 7 December 2014

Kiri Swannell in her Taradale kitchen, stirring 40 litres of creamy tomato soup.

'I don’t think that anyone should sleep in fear here in New Zealand at all' – Kiri Swannell.

A chance encounter with a homeless man lying shivering outside a local Taradale shop provided the catalyst for Kiri Swannell and her family to set up their mobile soup kitchen in June 2013.

Having never seen a homeless person in their neighbourhood before, Kiri and her husband Kevin spent the evening talking with the man, bringing him some blanket and hot noodles.

The following day the couple met with Napier City Council to ask whether they could set up a mobile soup kitchen in the centre of town, using their truck.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

A year and a half down the track, and Kiri, Kevin and their children can be found every Monday evening at Clive Square doling out not only a hot meal but support to those struggling on the streets.

"I believe the Lord said right at the start that he’s going to breathe on it and blow this up and it’s going to be bigger than what we imagined. It’s not about our Ministry; it’s about seeing people reached that haven’t been reached out to before," Kevin says.

Kevin Swannell transferring the soup f
Kevin Swannell transferring the soup from a 60 litre pot to a 100 litre pot, so it can be safely transported without a drop being spilt!

The Swannells serve a core group of about 20 people but this can swell to upwards of 100 over the summer months.

The family is supported by members of the community through food donations, fundraising efforts and even offering their own services such as free haircuts.

Volunteers also help man the truck, which means Kiri and Kevin are able to chat with their regulars.

"It releases me and Kev so we can talk to the guys and establish relationships…and know what’s going on in their world.  We try and ask every week who is on the street so we know them name by name", Kiri says.

"I tell the guys, if they don’t see me during the week, I’m still thinking about them and there’s stuff that I’m doing on their behalf."

Soup pan
Kevin serving up soup in Napier’s Clive Square (L). Daughter Tiana is also a regular volunteer on Monday nights (R). She's serving soup to Chris, who has been sleeping rough around the centre of Napier for nearly four years.

Sooty, who has been living on-and-off the streets for several years, regularly plays the public piano on Emerson Street and often delights passers-by with Für Elise by Beethoven.

Kevin also recently spent 40 hours sleeping rough on Napier streets to experience first-hand the challenges homeless people face on a daily basis.

"Kevin being out on the streets, it was confirmation that what we are doing, and the direction we’re going in, is right," Kiri says.

Join Spectrum’s Lisa Thompson as she spends the evening with the Swannells and Napier’s homeless-helpers.

Chris,one of the soup truck regulars, heading off to find a safe place to sleep for the night.