Churches getting ready to open homeless winter shelters

Churches across London are uniting for the first time in their efforts to care for the capital's homeless this winter.

Last year, some 400 churches provided shelter to over 1,400 homeless people, providing hot meals and a warm bed during the harshest months of the year.

Typically, night shelters are hosted at a different church each night of the week from November to March.

In addition to a bed for the night and dinner, guests receive a breakfast the following morning and have access to hot showers.

The guests are referred to the shelters by day centres, voluntary organisations and statutory bodies.

Now the churches are looking to share their experiences and help other churches open up new night shelters.

The day-long Homelessness, Hospitality and Hope event takes place at Southwark Cathedral on 10 November and will bring together hundreds of volunteers to celebrate stories of transformation from London’s church-run winter night shelters.

There will be a service of celebration and a choice of six seminars covering issues like addiction and mental health issues, partnering with local authorities, and the place of spirituality in night shelter communities.

The day will end with a service of commissioning for night shelter volunteers.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Richard Chartres said, “We are rightly concerned with the underlying causes of homelessness in our society. But the more immediate concern is to offer shelter, food and a listening ear.

“There are thousands of churches throughout our Capital and I am so glad that growing numbers of them are co-operating in this practical demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ for those like himself who have no place to lay their head.”

Shelter Liaison Coordinator at Housing Justice the Rev Paul Reily said, “Winter night shelters draw churches together like nothing else I have known. This event is an opportunity for London churches to reflect on poverty to speak with a common voice.

“It’s a sign that the church is behaving as the Kingdom of God rather than merely a religious group.”

Homelessness Hospitality and Hope is hosted by Housing Justice, The West London Mission and the Diocese of London.