Twenty years helping people in need of food and clothing

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People would go hungry if it wasn’t for the Community Awareness Programme.

In 21st century Britain people are still finding themselves destitute and unable to put food on the table in 2017.

And for the past 20 years CAP has been a lifeline, providing meals, clothing, household items - and a friendly ear for people in need - after being founded by Ernest and Elisabeth Hibbert.

It started when Mr and Mrs Hibbert visited London and were shocked at the deprivation facing the capital’s street homeless. Back in Wakefield, CAP was formed in 1997.

Mr Hibbert said: “We originally wanted to work with families and under privileged children, single parents, that was the vision.

“But it quickly turned on its head and we started to work with the homeless. We weren’t expecting what we saw and that’s the journey we’ve been on.”

In 2014 CAP moved to Market Street, bringing the support it offers to destitute people together at an expanded premises under the current project manager Kevin Dobson.

Mr Hibbert said: “We have housing organisations that do surgeries, we have health professionals and a hairdresser. There is an optician who brings in glasses that are not needed and checks people’s eyes and gives them glasses.

“It’s a place where people are comfortable, where they can find what they need and that makes a big difference.”

During the past two decades Mr Hibbert has seen the impact of government policies on people’s lives. Current changes to the benefits system include Universal Credit, which has seen people face weeks of delays to get their first payment.

Mr Hibbert said: “It’s difficult to say what will happen but nationally the picture is one of devastation.

“They are making legislation for problems they don’t really know about.” Official figures also mask the true scale of homelessness and rough sleeping.

Mr Hibbert said: “The way they do the (rough sleeping) count is so regulated they don’t get to the true figure. Sofa surfers are homeless. They are sleeping on somebody’s settee and have no permanent address. He added: “It’s about people at the end of the day and not numbers or statistics.”