The Municipality of Porto runs three solidarity restaurants and serves an average of 525 meals per day. At times like these, solidarity in the shape of free meals is crucial, as the pandemic outed the already existing social inequalities that are hardened by the pandemic constraints.
The municipal investment amounts to circa 300 thousand euros per year and is the result of an engagement work by several entities, namely the Emergency Temporary Shelters and the solidarity restaurants for the homeless.
Recently, Mayor Rui Moreira visited one of such restaurants in operation in Porto, located in Downtown Porto, close to Rua de Passos Manuel. The Mayor witnessed the proper bustle that such moments bring, with meal preparation, which would be distributed between 8pm and 10.30pm, last night, in a take-away regime: paper bags already aligned and set to be filled with warm soup and meal dishes, with dessert. These modus operandi, first adopted in March 2020, will continue as long as the ongoing pandemic prevents gatherings around the table.
This solidarity restaurant, one out of the three operating in Porto, opened last November, nearby Rua de Passos Manuel, in a facility that was leased to ACISJF - Associação Católica Internacional ao Serviço da Juventude Feminina do Porto. The demand is increasing and the Municipality of Porto copes with that rise in demand with the support of several partner entities in the Invicta. In 2020 alone, the total number of served meals was circa 150 thousand, in all three solidarity restaurants.
It is worth recalling that the first solidarity restaurant opened in 2017, when the solidarity restaurant opened in Batalha, in rented premises of the Hospital do Terço. Soon after, that space could not accommodate demand and the Municipality of Porto sought for the expansion of such restaurants in the city, coordinating this initiative with the Municipal Integration Strategy of Homeless people, which is also extended to other vulnerable people in the city.
In 2019, time to open the second solidarity restaurant in the former Hospital Joaquim Urbano, a place that already accommodated the Temporary Reception Centre for the Homeless. These facilities were granted to the Municipality by Porto Healthcare Centre.
The space already had an installed kitchen and all the meals are ensured by the SAOM – Serviços de Assistência Organizações de Maria, a renowned charitable organisation in Porto. This is the place that provides all meals to the other two solidarity restaurants, supported by volunteers of the Associação CASA – Centro de Apoio ao Sem-abrigo, whic guarantees distribution and serves the meals. This support is also backed by the volunteers at GAS-Porto Grupo de Ação Social do Porto, another partner entity of the project.
The solidarity restaurant network operates in strategic areas in the city of Porto, “intended to replace food distribution in plain street or public spaces, seeking to offer a dignified service, all the while safeguarding food safety issues”, as highlighted by the Municipality.
“The biggest challenge is to make sure that all homeless people are entitled to a healthy and balanced meal, and this task summons all local players: the municipality, the entities that are part of NPISA [Núcleo de Planeamento e Intervenção Sem-Abrigo] Porto, and other non-government organizations, as well as civil society that, as a whole, ensure the needed answer capacity is in place to fulfil the fundamental right to food and social integration”, furthered councillor for Housing and Social Cohesion, Fernando Paulo, who accompanied Mayor Rui Moreira in this visit to the solidarity restaurant.
Moreover, there are plans to open a fourth solidarity restaurant in the western part of town.
The Municipality of Porto has activated its contingency plan for extreme weather conditions affecting the homeless and the most vulnerable population in the city of Porto, as of 30th December 2020 and the response is coordinated with the Emergency Temporary Shelters and the solidarity restaurants for the homeless.