As the cold weather looms the needs are getting more serious
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, the chair of the Justice and Peace Commission In Westminster Diocese, explained to The Tablet the important role played by faith groups in tackling homelessness this winter: “As the cold weather looms the needs are getting more serious, with increasing numbers on the poverty line.” He reported that Westminster City Council wants to work with faith groups, “and this is a time to work together”. Joint initiatives planned at his Farm Street parish include mental health services, employment advice and art and performance therapy.
Central London Catholic churches are currently feeding the homeless two days a week in the Arrupe Hall at Farm Street. The food is donated by local businesses and more than 40 volunteers in the churches have come forward to help.
Fr Dominic reported that by going around hotels and restaurants to seek support he has met very anxious people, some already among the new homeless in Central London: “I have felt the anguish of the hospitality industry with businesses unable to pay rents, keep staff and facing closure." Yet, “they still want to help feed the homeless.”
On Wednesday, Fr Dominic joined with Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James, Piccadilly, and Revd Jonathan Evens of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, to lobby Nickie Aiken, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, to urge the government to address causes of homelessness and food insecurity. These include everyone having recourse to public funds, regardless of their immigration status, and extending the ban on evictions for those unable to pay their rent. “People want a hand up as well as a hand out,” Fr Robinson said, “and they need to have respect shown to them.”
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ is Parish Priest at Farm Street Church and during the first lockdown, he was interviewed by the media (including Newsnight) about the plight of the homeless during the pandemic and what the church was doing to help.
The full interview in The Tablet can be viewed here.