Seeing people sleep on the street, especially now that it is getting colder, can be very upsetting to see. Aside from giving a pound, or a cup of tea, there can be an overwhelming feeling of ‘what can I do?’ When faced with this desperation many of us feel powerless. How can we make a real difference?
At our Day Centre we work with individuals who are not able to access government benefits or any state-funded hostels. This added exclusion from state support hugely limits any options they have for housing during winter if they are street homeless. There are charities in London that run night shelters – but they are very few, and demand can be so high that they quickly run out of space. Even at the day centre we often have to say that there is nothing we can do to help people with a bed for the night- and they have to go back out into the cold. It is very hard to see.
We live through very difficult times now … we do not have status or secure accomodation for ourselves. I think that all human beings have the right to have accommodation. This should not be regarded as a luxury but as a priority for all.
A refugee friend
Last Sunday, the Christian community came together for Homeless Sunday, a time to reflect and pray for those who do not have a home but also to plan practical action on homelessness.
The desperate need for safe and secure accommodation for those refugees we serve was how our At Home hosting scheme came to start. Through At Home we are able to offer destitute asylum seekers who would otherwise be street homeless some short term accommodation with our different hosting communities in London. Having a small period of stability gives them the chance to regain some emotional and physical strength and to feel safe and cared for.
“We consider it a privilege to have this opportunity of sharing our home with women who are living in destitution, often alone and uncared for, longing for that “warm human welcome” that Pope Francis speaks of.”
An At Home host
Our hosts have created a real variety of different communities of hospitality with a range of home set-ups – we have religious communities of sisters and priests who host, as well as families. Each community provides a warm and welcoming environment for our friends who are able to get some much needed respite from their days spent worrying where they will sleep that night. The difference we see once our friends are finally able to have a night’s sleep somewhere safe and secure is incredible and the relationships formed stay with our hosts long after the placement ends.
“People are very kind and helpful. I am a million times thankful from the bottom of my heart. I wish this programme will continue.”
An At Home guest
Hosting is one of the ways that you can show solidarity with those who have endured very tough lives. Opening your home to someone who is destitute could be a lifeline this winter when other options are extremely limited. Most importantly, finding somewhere welcoming to stay is the first step to giving people their dignity back.