Volunteers at south Belfast food and essentials bank say level of demand 'distressing'

A food and essentials bank in south Belfast faces closure unless it can find a venue to operate from.

The Help at Hand group, which was set in January to help those in the most dire situations, has over 8,000 members in its online group.

Organisers are operating out of a set of garages in Finaghy and say the need they are seeing is distressing and overwhelming.

Volunteers told UTV they have seen families without beds having to sleep on the floor and children being dressed by torchlight to save electricity.

Louise McKee, one of the group organisers, says: "There are children coming in from school to no dinner. 

"There are people phoning us and saying 'please hurry up, my kids are home and can you bring the food parcel?' But we can only do so much."

The group say their current setup isn't sustainable because they have no electricity or water.

"The winter is coming," Louise said, "and it's going to get really damp.  It's not going to last and we don't know what to do as there are so many people coming, it's non stop."

Kellie Armstrong volunteers with the group, but also receives help from them.

"I was struggling myself, I have cancer and financially I couldn't put food on the table," she says. 

"We couldn't afford to pay our gas or electric.  Without the group we couldn't have got by.

"There's many people I've met since, I thought my life was hard but then you see some of these families and your heart breaks."