A homelessness charity that runs a town-centre soup kitchen has said record numbers of people are seeking its help.

Nightwatch, which hands out food and clothing in Queen's Gardens, reached "a record we never wanted to see" after turnout passed 100 for the first time.

Jad Adams, the charity's chair, attributed the unwelcome milestone to rising poverty and eastern Europeans looking for work.

He added: "In these difficult times, quite a number of the people we see have somewhere to live and are working but don’t have enough money to live on, so come to us for food and household appliances if theirs break down."

The charity has been recording the number of people it helps since 1988, when the first entry read simply: "Graham, Brendan, Terry, Stan, Mick, not been for a while -says he is ok!"

It now deals with an average 84 people each Sunday, when it gives out food, and between half and two-thirds of that on weekdays. More than 100 people turned up on a Sunday in December, the charity said it its annual report, published last week.

Mr Adams said many of the eastern Europeans it helped were "living a precarious existence, usually in overcrowded accommodation, and picking up work in the 'black economy.'"

He added: "This cash-in-hand existence leaves them prey to unscrupulous gang masters. One man told us he was working a 12-hour day washing cars for £30."

In December, Nightwatch became embroiled in a row with Croydon Council and Metropolitan Police borough commander Dave Musker after a report emerged detailing plans - since shelved - to use "all available byelaws" to shut down the soup kitchen.