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Charity sees ‘hidden story of families who live in squalor and struggle to buy food’ in Keighley
Keighley is among the most deprived areas of the county, says a charity set up to tackle poverty in the town.
Patrick and Liz McDonnell, who set up Living Lights Christian Outreach last year, say some families they deal with spend almost half their income heating their homes, leaving them little for food or other basic comforts.
The couple say there are people living in squalor in all areas of the town, as the problem is hidden in many cases.
Based at the Nazarene Church in Oakworth Road, the charity hands out emergency food bags and bedding. Recently it has been handing out 50 bags each week – 500 items of food.
They take referrals from local agencies and visit families in their homes and on these rounds have encountered some of the worst poverty in the UK. Figures by charity Elizabeth Finn Care show many families in the BD21 postcode spend 46 per cent of their income on heating.
Patrick said he believed increasing costs of essentials was creating a food crisis in the town.
He said: “People are finding themselves in crisis because of unemployment, redundancy, homelessness, debt and addiction, and there’s a hidden story of families in our community who are struggling to feed themselves or heat their homes.
“We’ve witnessed appalling living conditions as we reach out a hand of hope to desperate families.
“The general view is that although local agencies and churches are aware of the acute food and fuel poverty in Keighley, they are overwhelmed by the level of need. We will always need more help.”
Liz added: “We go out into the poorest areas of Keighley and see the conditions people are living in. It is all sorts of people, working families, single parents, people who have problems with debt.
“At this time of year a lot of families have children on school breaks so we see a lot of people who can’t afford to provide the meals they normally get in school. If you have two or three children then this is a huge strain.
“We are helping people from all over Keighley. We have seen people living in terrible conditions all over.
“We’ve seen places dripping with damp and families are spending every penny they have heating it.”
The group will soon launch a new website and are starting a campaign to encourage churches, groups and businesses to support their work.
The charity is supported by the town’s Asda and holds food-collection days where people donate as they shop. The next collection date will be September 11.
Anyone wanting to support Living Lights in its work can contact Patrick on 07401 999399 or Liz on 07830 855544.
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