Muslims, Jews and Christians come together to combat homelessness

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For the first time ever, London’s vital winter night shelter schemes will include a mosque as a venue.

West London Mission’s (WLM) Night Shelter in Westminster is the first winter night shelter scheme in London which has churches, a synagogue and a mosque as venues to host people who would otherwise be sleeping rough.

WLM’s Night Shelter is one of a network of over 90 Night Shelter schemes across the country that help hundreds of homeless people through the winter months by giving them shelter for the night. Churches are at the heart of the schemes and form the majority of the venues but other faith groups are increasingly getting involved.

This year marks the eighth year that the WLM night shelter project has run in London. It began in 2011 and originally involved just four churches. At its outset, this meant it could not offer accommodation every night of the week. But from this start, many more churches came on board and now it is a partnership involving 13 different churches from a wide range of Christian traditions, along with the synagogue and now mosque. More than 160 volunteers are involved across these venues. Last year it was assessed and awarded the Quality Mark Accreditation of Excellent Practice by the national network Housing Justice.

WLM Chief Executive, Jon Kuhrt said ‘The Night Shelter is a great example of faith in action. For the last 7 years, it has helped hundreds of homeless people come off the streets and into safety and warmth. It has not received one penny of government funding – the entire scheme has been faith driven. It has brought many churches together and now those from other faith traditions too. It is an important example of unity in these divisive times.’

The mosque is the Al-Manaar Mosque which was also among the first responders to the Grenfell Tower fire disaster. Abdurahman Sayed, its Chief Executive, said of the fire: ‘Initially we just opened doors to anyone who wanted to walk in and have some sleep. Then we became an official centre coordinating clothes, toiletries and other needs for the victims. We also coordinated help from volunteers to assist those in need. Since then we have been offering counselling and therapeutic assistance also.’

He said the mosque was delighted to be taking part in WLM night shelter scheme: ‘One of our humanitarian and religious duties is to support the needy. Since we have a need locally, it’s our mission to provide every support we can afford. We feel happy to assist people who are destitute or homeless or in need of assistance. It is our obligation and our duty.’

WLM’s centre in Seymour Place in Marylebone provides the assessment and ongoing support for Night Shelter guests – helping them to access the scheme and then offering long term housing and job opportunities. It is the combination of professional support from WLM staff and the hospitality provided by the venues which is at the heart of the scheme. Last year the WLM Night Shelter helped 54 rough sleepers to come off the streets overall. 25 people were helped into longer term accommodation, 3 were reconnected with their home and a further 10 were helped to get jobs.

One guest who benefited said: ‘I lost my job and a few weeks later I had run out of money I came to WLM. I was able to have a shower, food, bus and train tickets to interviews and advice.

‘WLM helped me get an interview as a chef at a local hotel. I was successful and have been there ever since working full me. I was lucky to get a place in the WLM Night Shelter. After a few months I saved up enough money and am now renting my own place. Everyone at WLM was there to help me.’

This October WLM is celebrating the 130th year of its work to combat homelessness and poverty in London. It was formed back in October 1887 at a meeting on Piccadilly. To mark this anniversary and to raise funds for its work with rough sleepers, there will be a ‘Sleep Out’ at St James’ Church, Piccadilly on Friday 13 October. Last year this event raised nearly £30,000. For more information see http://www.wlm.org.uk/how-you-can-help/SleepOut2017

For more information contact:
Jon Kuhrt, Chief Executive West London Mission
07584 582 441
Jon.kuhrt@wlm.org.uk

Venues for the WLM Night Shelter 2017/18

  1. Farm Street Church
  2. Hinde Street Methodist Church
  3. Fernhead Methodist Church
  4. St James’ Church, Piccadilly
  5. St Mary of the Angels
  6. Notre Dame De France
  7. Westminster Cathedral
  8. Emmanuel Church
  9. Holy Apostles Pimlico
  10. Methodist Central Hall (hosted at St Paul’s Rossmore Road)
  11. St Patrick’s, Soho Square
  12. West London Synagogue
  13. St Stephen’s Rochester Row
  14. All Souls, Langham Place (Clubhouse)
  15. Al-Manaar Mosque