If you’re a member of the congregation of St Luke’s or St Thomas’ churches, you’ll already know this, but it came as a surprise to some of us: there’s a winter shelter for homeless people in St Thomas’ hall, and still has another six weeks left to run.
The weather can be cruel at the start of the year and while you may see more campaigns around Christmas, the need for shelter is just as pressing now.
Seven churches across Greenwich borough take part in the night shelter project, run by volunteers, with each church opening their doors one night of the week.
St Thomas’, working together with the congregation of St Luke’s, welcomes its guests on Fridays. They arrive at 7pm, are offered showers and a hot meal, breakfast the next morning and a packed lunch to take with them. The hall can hold 15 people and most of these places are usually taken, with between 12 and 15 people normally sheltering for the night.
Most guests are now regulars, and the volunteers have got to know them well.
Volunteers get ready for Friday night
Beds ready to be made up
We asked James Kinsella, a volunteer at the shelter, to describe the experience of running the shelter in one word, and he chose “humbling”.
He says volunteers have found the project rewarding and that they have been made “more aware of the plight of the homeless in London”. James says his attitude to homeless people has changed:
I am more aware of the homeless that are on the street in this cold weather, and if I give them some money I don’t cast judgement on how they spend it: if I was out in this cold weather I may need some alcohol to numb the pain
Asked how he thought guests found the shelter, James says he hopes they have found the church hall “a very warm and welcoming place where they are treated with dignity and kindness”.
If you’d like to support the valuable work that St Thomas’ Church is doing this winter, while there are enough volunteers, the team woud be very grateful for donations.
You can donate food to the shelter by leaving it at the church after 4pm on a Friday, or you can donate money. The church has a good relationship with its local community and already receives a good amount of food, but it also needs to pay for heating, fresh food and lighting, so money is – if anything – more welcome.
Cheques should be made out to St Thomas’ PCC and can also be dropped off at the church – the volunteers can give you a written acknowledgement of your donation if they know your name.