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Zouk Tea Bar and Grill partner with Two Brews to help feed the homeless

Amidst the urgent challenge of homelessness in Manchester, Tayub Amjad, owner of Zouk Tea Bar and Grill, and Amanda Thompson, Founder of the charity Two Brews, have forged an inspiring partnership, determined to make a difference.

With Two Brews actively engaging with various restaurants in the city, Amanda has been instrumental in collecting donated meals and distributing them to those in need week after week.

This remarkable partnership not only highlights the power of unity but also sheds light on the dire situation faced by Manchester’s homeless population.

Manchester, like many other cities, grapples with a significant homelessness problem.

Multiple factors have left numerous individuals and families without a stable roof over their heads.

In the face of this crisis, Amanda Thompson and Tayub Amjad have taken it upon themselves to make a difference.

We sat down to discuss their new initiative and their experiences with homelessness in the city.

Tayub said the new partnership works so well for both parties, as Zouk can make the food, and Two Brews can distribute it to the neediest via their network of vans and cars.

He said: “For us, before COVID, we had just started a scheme where we made a pot of biryani, which is easy to carry as it has rice, and protein, all in one container.

“We would take a team member with us, everyone would participate in packing it, and then we would drop it off to homeless people that we encountered.

“But unfortunately, then COVID happened, and we had to stop.

“But we always talked about restarting and providing food, so during Ramadan, we provided 150 meals per day for 10 days, totalling 1500 meals to the British Islamic Society.

“Since we didn’t have a manager who could drive anymore, we thought about involving others.

“And then Two Brews sent us a message on Instagram, and I thought it was brilliant because they would come and pick it up, and we could focus on preparing the food.

“We have chefs who know what they’re doing, and it feels good to do something to help others while they do their job.

“It’s a great collaboration. They come to pick it up, we get it ready, packed, and we distribute it while it’s still hot. We even have hot food bags that keep the food warm for four hours.

“For us, it was about realising how often we get caught up in our own lives and don’t pay attention to the struggles of others, especially in a city like Manchester and a country like the United Kingdom.

“There are so many people who are struggling, and it’s quite shocking. I feel there should be more political initiatives to address this.

“What really hit me was when we had homeless people staying on our outside decking before COVID.

“I wanted to block it off and install shutters, but I realised how selfish that was. One day, I received a note from someone who had been sleeping there, thanking us for providing a safe place.

“He even offered to help out by painting, as that’s what he did before he was homeless.

“It made me realise how we should be more considerate and compassionate. We need to do more.

“It’s about bringing people together and supporting each other. We all have our roles, and we advertise the donations we receive. It’s like they say, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Amanda shared a story of how easily people can find themselves homeless:

“The story of the man we encountered is a powerful reminder that the paths leading to homelessness are often more complex than they appear at first glance.

“When we first came across him, he was in a state of frustration and desperation, seemingly ready to fight against the world.

“It is moments like these that emphasize the importance of understanding the underlying reasons for someone’s circumstances rather than making assumptions or passing judgment.

“As we took the time to know him and listened to his story, we discovered that his journey into homelessness was not a result of a series of conscious choices but rather a devastating sequence of events.

“His story began with a seemingly innocent weekend getaway with friends, leaving behind his one-and-a-half-year-old son and his fiancée, whom he deeply loved and was engaged to marry.

“Tragically, upon his return, his home had been boarded up, and the police were present on his street. He had lost his phone so had no way of being in contact with his family.

“The devastating truth was revealed: a house fire had taken the lives of his beloved son and his fiancée.

“The weight of such a loss became unbearable for him, and he struggled to cope with the immense grief.

“Despite his efforts to continue with his job, he eventually reached a breaking point.

“Overwhelmed by the pain, he turned to alcohol as a means of temporary escape, which led him to spend the next seven years living on the streets.

“It is stories like these that remind us of the fragility of life and how circumstances beyond our control can lead to unimaginable hardships. Homelessness is not a choice that anyone willingly makes.

“It often arises from a series of unfortunate events, loss, trauma, or a lack of support systems that compound the challenges faced by individuals.”

One of the key aspects of the work at Two Brews is to not just provide necessities but also to lend a listening ear and offer support.

It’s through these conversations and building trust that they begin to understand the complex and often overlooked reasons why someone may find themselves homeless.

Two Brews also help by creating a safe and non-judgmental space, where people can establish connections and rebuild confidence.  It’s important to let them know that they are not alone and that there are people who genuinely care and want to help.

Amanda continued: “Providing practical support like food, drinks, toiletries, and clothes is essential, but emotional support and a sense of community are equally important.

“Each night, our dedicated teams, consisting of volunteers with various skills, come together to make a difference.

“We have bakers who create delicious cakes, earning compliments akin to those found in high-end bakeries.

“These small gestures of care and attention to detail not only bring joy to those we serve but also inspire our volunteers to constantly improve and find new ways to make a positive impact.”

Both parties discussed that homelessness was something that is a complicated issue, not easily solved.

Tayub and Amanda stressed that solving the issue across Manchester requires ongoing dedication, collaboration, and empathy from the community as a whole.

Tayub said: “The statement holds a profound truth: anyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, is just a step away from experiencing homelessness.

“It’s a stark reality that often goes unnoticed amidst the bustling streets of a city like Manchester.

“The sight of numerous apartments and ongoing construction projects may create an illusion of progress and prosperity, but the presence of people living on the streets reveals a deeper issue.

“As we pass by individuals experiencing homelessness, it is disheartening to realize how easily one can become invisible to the world.

“Caught up in our own daily lives, we often fail to notice their presence. It is a reflection of the collective societal tendency to remain absorbed in our struggles, challenges, and pursuits.

“However, within each person living on the streets lies a profound and heartbreaking story waiting to be heard.

“To address the issue of homelessness, we must shift our perspective and foster a culture of empathy and understanding.

“It is crucial to recognise that homelessness is not a result of personal failure or inherent flaws.

“It is a complex issue rooted in systemic challenges, including the lack of affordable housing, limited access to support services, and societal inequality.”

Amanda added that it was while she was on a charity sleepout to raise money for the homeless, she realised how differently people who lived on the streets were treated.

She said: “We spent 48 hours sleeping on the streets of Manchester provided a firsthand experience of homelessness.

“The team ventured out, choosing to sleep in two different locations.

“The first night was spent in St. Peter Square, seeking shelter under the arches. The second night took them to the NCP car park, where they slept on the cold, hard floor.

“We wanted to gain insight into the realities faced by those experiencing homelessness.

“The experience proved to be eye-opening, as they witnessed firsthand how passersby averted their gaze or cast judgmental looks.

“The disparity between their circumstances and those of people living on the streets became painfully evident.

“The encounters revealed the shocking lack of empathy and understanding prevalent in society. It became apparent that many individuals viewed the homeless with disregard as if their presence was an inconvenience or a disruption to their daily routines.

“Simple requests for a shower or a glass of water were met with suspicion and scepticism.

“The underlying assumption seemed to be that being on the streets automatically labelled one as unworthy or untrustworthy.

Zouk and Two Brews are hoping they can continue this partnership as long as is required.

If anyone wishes to get involved with Two Brews, whether it’s through volunteering, donating essential items, or offering support in any other way, we encourage them to reach out to us.

You can catch them on their social media channels by clicking here.

You can check out their website here.

Together, we can work towards a future where everyone has access to a safe and secure place to call home and where individuals are supported through their darkest moments

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