There’s a whole new cohort of people who were managing before, who can’t manage any more.
The Welcome Centre opened its doors to the Guardian for a full month, giving you an insight into what goes on behind closed doors. Read the full article using the link below.
Every morning at the Welcome Centre in Huddersfield goes like this. Ellie Coteau lets herself in at 8.45 and makes her way to the kitchen, for a cup of tea. She chats to her deputy, Mike Bristow, then heads to her desk to turn on her computer and check the referral list for that day.
Coteau was born and raised in Huddersfield. She left to go to Cambridge University, but while her peers went into lucrative jobs in finance, law and consultancy after graduating, Coteau came home to West Yorkshire. The 32-year-old mother-to-be – Coteau is seven months pregnant with her first child – has the empathic air of a community midwife, coupled with the brisk efficiency of a chief executive. “As corny as it sounds, it has always been important for me to give something back,” she says.
The Welcome Centre is one of the largest independent food banks in the north of England, and a member of the Independent Food Aid Network UK, a collective of independent food banks across the country. Coteau’s team of six salaried staff and 120 volunteers are based at two sites: a walk-in centre in central Huddersfield, and a warehouse on the outskirts of the town, where the food bank stores extra supplies. Huddersfield is an ethnically and socially diverse area, and Coteau’s team supports anyone from 18-year-old care leavers to working families, women fleeing domestic violence, and asylum seekers.
The centre itself is a warren of turquoise-painted rooms and narrow corridors. Every corridor and store cupboard is crammed with crates and clear storage baskets. There are fridges everywhere, too, bearing notices such as “bread”, “butter” or “Nando’s”. (Nando’s is a corporate donor; the fridge is full of frozen chicken. When you open it, the smell of peri-peri is overwhelming.)