East London churches offer homeless rolling night shelter

Twelve churches in Tower Hamlets have clubbed together to open a rolling night shelter for homeless people in the East London borough.

The GrowTH project is offering homeless people a safe and warm place to sleep seven days a week until the end of February.

Participating churches are taking it in turns to open their doors to guests from 7.30pm and provide a hot dinner in the evening and breakfast the following morning.

The shelter opened on December 1 and has since been running at full capacity with 15 beds. Demand has been so high that sixteen referrals have so far had to be turned away.

Most of those staying were men between the ages of 36 and 45, with a “lack of money” being most often cited by the guests as their reason for turning to the shelter.

Of the 25 guests that have stayed at GrowTH in the last few weeks, two have already been resettled into more permanent accommodation.

Tony Uddin, of Tower Hamlets Community Church, is one of the project organisers. He said the churches were inspired to set up GrowTH because of the gap in service provision for local homeless people in Tower Hamlets.

“Our volunteers’ generosity means that we can make a real difference this Christmas and throughout the winter,” he said.

“One of our guests told me that the night he spent in one of our shelters was the first safe, uninterrupted sleep he had had in ages. This makes it all worth it.

“It is important for churches to be involved in the local community and our initiative is proof that we can make a real difference and implement the much publicised Big Society ethos.”

The project is being fully funded by the churches and has been made possible by more than 120 volunteer staff.

The project has been launched with the support of Christian disability charity Livability, which owns the Tower Hamlets Community Church building. The charity’s Community Mission Team has worked with the church to offer support and advice on the development project.