At Christmas this year, St. Luke’s Church in Holloway is transformed into a temporary ‘Nightshelter’ for the homeless every Saturday night. “The Nightshelter is a circuit of churches”, I am told by Mark Brennan, who runs the scheme, “If I had to describe it in five words I would say: Hospitality, peaceful inclusion, building community.”
In the evening, we open at 7:30pm, to serve a hot meal to and give beds to fifteen. They then sleep there overnight and are given breakfast in the morning. The church is then cleared away again for the service in the morning by about 8:30am.
“We have a full scope of backgrounds in the guests,” Mark tells me “Last year we had 36 different nationalities! However, we always choose people who would otherwise be sleeping rough. We don’t take anyone under 18, but we have taken a man in his 70’s in the past.” Mark then went on to tell me that they had mainly men using the shelter: “I suspect that the reason for this is that people generally look at women as being more vulnerable and so people generally have more of a tendency to support women primarily.”
Treating people equally
“We do occasionally have problems…but quite rarely. I act as a kind of ‘gatekeeper’ which means that I take all the admissions. I get lots of calls from all kinds of places – Hospitals, prisons, homeless agencies etc. I have to put them through the referral process, because I have to be mindful of who is accepted in order to maintain a nice, peaceful shelter. If I had, say, three or more drinkers, then a clique might begin to form and that can cause problems like antagonism. We try to treat everyone equally. Often, however, I have found that the guests police themselves. When people are offered hospitality like this, they respond to it really well. They appreciate the hospitality and respect what ever their problems. If anyone was kicking off, the tendency is for the guests to tell that person to calm down.”
“There has been huge improvement over the last 10 years. In the 7 years since I started, 14 more London boroughs have signed up to a project similar to ours, bringing the total to 24 so I am very optimistic. The overall budget for all the homeless projects in London alone is over £800,000,000 per year! The problem can definitely be solved. We can all do something and work together to resolve it.”
It is clear from my interview with Mark that the situation for the homeless in London is definitely improving, however, as Mark said ‘We can all do something and work together to resolve it”, the emphasis being on the word together.
The Nightshelter is currently trying to raise £10,000 for a shower for the guests, and for kitchen equipment to help with the catering. I would like to encourage you to donate to the Nightshelter, because without donations, there is very little that can be done. Even if you only give £5, it can still make a huge difference. You can donate here at: https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/stlukeswestholloway
If you have any ideas for fundraisers, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy New Year!
Joe Mayo is currently in year 9 at school and enjoys learning about computer technology, physics and chemistry.