A COMMUNITY group which has handed out tens of thousands of free meals to residents in need has been left homeless.

Formed two years ago by a group of parents at Meadowside Community Primary School in Longford, the Friends of Meadowside run numerous projects as varied as food banks, youth clubs, support groups, first aid courses and sign language training.

In that time, volunteers have distributed nearly 70,000 meals to hungry families.

It originally moved into the community cabin in Orford Park in September, signing a six-month tenancy agreement, and has supported more than 3,000 people in the area since.

But the friends will be forced to leave their home at the end of next month after Livewire handed the lease to another community group.

The existing license expires on March 31, with the Armed Forces Community Support Hub set to take over the site – which is also known as the greenhouse – in April after a retendering process.

And the Friends of Meadowside have no alternative home to go to.

Group founder Mark Davies said: "A woman came in this morning in tears because she'd just found out we're not going to be here anymore.

"We're a community interest company, and we have on average 30 to 35 people a day – if not more – coming in for help, welfare advice and food.

"There are going to be a lot of families seriously struggling.

"These are OAPs, these are people on benefits who are struggling, these are families who've been sanctioned under Universal Credit.

"I get that Livewire have to run a business, but that doesn't help these families and I really fear for the people that we're supporting.

"Where are these people going to go?

"We can't allow these people to go hungry, it's wrong."

The currently closed public toilets in Orford Park will be reopened as part of the deal with the new tenants.

A Livewire spokesman added: "While we understand the Friends of Meadowside's disappointment that their temporary, fixed-term license will not be made permanent when it ends on March 31 2020, we have had number of very strong applications from a range of organisations to take over the permanent occupancy of the community cabin in Orford Park.

"Discussions are ongoing between us and the friends regarding their next steps and the services they provide.

"Following an open and transparent tender and interview process, the charitable organisation the Armed Forces Community Support Hub has been selected.

"The group submitted an extremely comprehensive application and we look forward to welcoming them to Orford Jubilee Park, where they will be delivering a range of services for and delivered by armed forces veterans and their families and the wider community – including mental health support, training and employment opportunities and social inclusion and welfare assistance, as well as a range of youth activities for the local community."