Helping the homeless under the Fourth Plinth
Since the lockdown began, central London churches - including Farm Street, St Patrick's, and the French Church - have been serving hundreds of breakfasts and evening meals, thanks to the generosity of Claridges and the Connaught Hotel. Now homeless people also have somewhere to go during the day - the new homeless refreshment station under the Fouth Plinth.
Anthony Doran, from Farm Street Church in Mayfair, explained that his group, which also includes volunteers from Westminster Cathedral, Holy Apostles, Pimlico and Holy Redeemer Chelsea, work on Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Holy Apostles has loaned their mini-bus to carry trestle tables and supplies. The team, (who supplied their own personal protection equipment - PPE) give out hot and cold drinks, snacks, and cookies donated by 45 Park Lane Cafe at the Dorchester, toiletries and takeaways.
Anthony said: "These people need our support. People don't realise - with this lockdown - even most public toilets are closed. When the weather is warm its not so bad - but when it starts raining its miserable out there. This looks as though it's going to become a growing problem - but we will be here doing as much as we can for as long as we are needed."
Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Parish Priest of Farm Street Church said: "Since the lockdown seven weeks ago this has been an emergency situation and remains so as the needs have escalated daily. We all need to be grateful for the incredible generosity of the volunteers from the Catholic Church and other faith groups.”
"The situation has brought the best out of ordinary Londoners who simply want to step in and help. Without the local hotels and others stepping in to provide hundreds of meals every day, completely free of charge for seven weeks, these homeless would be in very dire straits. In the past week alone Catholic parishes involved have also received £8,500 in generous donations to go towards these homeless services. This has truly been a great team effort between faith groups, local hotels co-ordinated mainly through The Connaught, the police, local residents and the Westminster City Council who have gladly accepted the offer of help. There is, however, still much more to be done for the up to 200 homeless still on our streets at this most dangerous of times and we are still actively looking for accommodation through Catholic Church networks and food services from hotels".
Fr Robinson went on to say: "As this crisis on the streets continues, the Catholic community must also ask who is really accountable for this clearly serious gap in provision being filled by the Church, other faith groups and hotels. It is particularly disturbing that our volunteers in Trafalgar Square are daily meeting desperate people who have requested but are unable to be accommodated and so many who have lost their jobs and are newly homeless as a result, it would seem, of the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.
"But now is not the time to point the finger of blame in the midst of these complex circumstances. Rather it is time for us as faith groups, businesses, residents and local government to continue to work together to meet these vital needs of the most vulnerable victims of this current crisis. It is a time for recommitting ourselves to the most vulnerable under our noses so that the homeless will not simply be forgotten when the lockdown ends.
"It must be the hope of all involved that government will continue to work together with faith groups and agencies to ensure every individual who finds themselves homeless in these unprecedented times is given the offer of shelter, sustenance and the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings made in the image of God".
Farm Street Church: www.farmstreet.org.uk/ (Includes details of donate facilities to support their work.)
[Story and photo credit: Independent Catholic News]