London Diocese unites to tackle homelessness in the capital

A Chat with

The Rt Rev Adrian Newman, Bishop of Stepney

CLERGY in London parishes can help tackle homelessness day-to-day, according to the Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Rev Adrian Newman, who is championing the Diocese of London Homelessness Appeal: Tackling Homelessness Together.

According to the Rt Rev Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden and Acting Bishop of London, who is co-championing the initiative, London is faced with ‘an immense challenge’, with 8,000 people sleeping rough in Greater London every year.

He explained to The Church of England Newspaper that the Diocese of London has chosen to partner with 15 beneficiary charities that help support parishes to run winter night shelters across the Diocese, working together to provide a shelter for ‘hundreds of homeless people in every part of our Diocese’.

“We have huge ambitions for the campaign: ambitions that I know that parishes within the Diocese are well equipped to meet,” he said.

Bishop Newman explained that this year, the diocese is hoping ‘to raise the profile of a Christian response to homelessness’, and ‘encourage churches to reflect on the human cost of being without a home.

“For many in our great city this is an immediate reality and the love of Christ calls us to respond to it,” he added.

Around one fifth of parishes in the diocese are actively helping the homeless, and Bishop Broadbent is urging more involvement from London parishes, though pointing out that Tackling Homelessness Together is targeting just one aspect of homelessness – the provision of winter night shelters.

However, it is highlighting the way local charities are working in partnership with parishes, churches from other denominations and those with other faiths in their area to provide somewhere warm and safe for those experiencing homelessness to sleep.

He referred to Hope for Southall Street as a ‘perfect’ example of how Southhall parishes are working with the Gurdwara and Sikh community to face the challenges in west London.

“Many of our other parishes are involved in different ways, through soup kitchens, such as the one at St Silas, Pentonville, or providing affordable food and community to those who are struggling to make ends meet, before people end up homeless, such as at St Laurence’s Larder,” he said.

“Other ways in which this is achieved is by parishes running credit unions and debt counselling, with a perfect example at St Mary’s, Enfield. The diocese of London runs Capital Mass, which is a link with the Church Urban Fund, and aims to engage and support every parish in the Diocese of London in tackling poverty and inequality,” he added.

Bishop Newman called the level of homelessness across London ‘a scandal’, adding that the contribution of churches and partner organisations ‘is vital’ as statutory authorities struggle to cope.

Even London parishes that are not hosting a night shelter can do a lot to help change homelessness on a day-to-day level, explained Bishop Newman, by making contact with their local partnership charity, (a list of which is on the Diocese of London website).

He explained that parishes can raise funds as a team and make a donation to the London Diocesan Homelessness Appeal, or consider making a monthly gift to a partner charity as part of their charitable offering.

“They can also make contact with Next Meal for a supply of their business cards for church members to carry with them, so when they come across a hungry person on the streets, they can use this simple website to find a location for their next meal,” he said.

“Lastly, churches can arrange a service (using resources on the appeal page) to raise awareness of homelessness and talk about ways that the parish might assist those experiencing homelessness.”

He advises that when someone sees a homeless person on the street, the best way for people to help is to check Street Link, which is run by St Mungo’s, a service that enables members of the public to connect people sleeping rough with the local services that can support them.

The Bishop explains that online details provided are sent to the local authority or outreach service for the area in which people have seen the person, to help them find the individual and connect them to support.

Additionally, he explains, if the rough sleeper is a young person, help and advice can be found on the Centrepoint website. As homelessness know no borders, he adds, people can find more information on homeless services in other boroughs by viewing The Pavement site.

Since the Tackling Homelessness Together initiative has been launched, Bishop Broadbent explains that ‘the initial response from parishes has been one of incredible generosity’.

“We are receiving donations from churches from their Christmas collections and we have had enquiries from clergy who want to support Tackling Homelessness Together as their Lenten Appeal.

“Our ‘Charity of the Week’ initiative, which highlights one of the partner charities, helps parishes identify which organisations are working in their area so that they can set up direct links with that charity if they wish. It also means that anyone wishing to volunteer can get in touch direct.”

Asked whether there are currently any plans to open more parish-run night shelters in London, Bishop Broadbent explained that Glass Door have just started a new winter night shelter circuit in the Richmond area. People interested should contact Glass Door at https://www.glassdoor.org.uk/.