Bishop of Edmonton highlights role of church night shelters in London
The Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, has joined local volunteers at the night shelter of St Dionis church in Parson’s Green. In his first outing as night shelter ambassador for Housing Justice, Bishop Rob met with volunteers and served Christmas dinner to approximately 35 guests.
As the first Housing Justice Night Shelter Ambassador, Bishop Rob will encourage churches in the capital to explore what they can do to support those who are homeless in their area. He has extensive experience of being a night shelter volunteer and of running such projects in St Mary’s Willesden, the Parish of Old St Pancras and St John at Hackney.
The Rt Revd Rob Wickham, Bishop of Edmonton, commented:
“The sight of homelessness on our streets is an uncomfortable stark reminder of our corporate duty to care for our neighbour. Clearly Jesus’s imperative to us was that we love our neighbour, and the church-based night shelter, involving thousands of volunteers, is a clear demonstration of that love in action. I’m grateful for the vision, energy and passion from our churches in this ministry, enabling thousands of men and women the dignity of a warm bed and hot food these winter months.”
During the visit, Bishop Rob met trustees, staff and volunteers from Glass Door Homeless Charity, London’s largest emergency winter night shelter network. Glass Door works with 23 churches in London (including St Dionis) to provide shelter and support for ninety men and women every night in winter. The churches provide the much-valued space for the night shelters (and often volunteer teams), and Glass Door provides the expertise, staff and funds to help guests access the shelters and find solutions to end their homelessness. The charity works closely with volunteers and partner churches to provide shelter, food, drop-in centres and dignity-restoring support.
The Revd Brian Leathard, Chair of Trustees from Glass Door and Rector of Chelsea, commented:
“We are glad to welcome Bishop Rob to the St Dionis night shelter. Our night shelters are consistently full, and our waiting list continues to grow. His involvement is a welcome sign of the church’s commitment to tackle the growing scandal of homelessness in our capital, and we hope it encourages other churches to join our goal of providing enough shelter so that no one ever gets turned away. There is reason for optimism: working together, we can make a difference. Our track record shows that with the right support, our guests can find a renewed sense of hope and turn their lives around.”
Bishop Rob’s visit coincided with the publication of the Housing Justice Church and Community Night Shelter Network Impact Report for the 2015 winter season. It found that night shelters in London welcomed 1,290 guests, with at least 200 churches, synagogues and Mosques opening their premises for use as shelters and Londoners giving an estimated 331,071 hours of volunteer time.
Welcoming Bishop Rob’s appointment, Jacob Quagliozzi, Deputy Director of Housing Justice and author of the Housing Justice Night Shelter Impact Report said:
“This year Housing Justice Night Shelter Impact Report shows the excellent work that Christians across London are doing to support those who are in great need this Christmas from homeless. This new report shows that, whilst there has been a drop in the number of guests being hosted by churches in this last shelter season, there will certainly be a significant increase in this current season.
“Appointing Bishop Rob as the first Housing Justice Night Shelter Ambassador is a demonstration from Housing Justice that we are keen to celebrate what Christians are already doing, but look at where the gaps are for us to see more Night Shelters beginning to emerge. Bishop Rob is an excellent example of someone who believes passionately in seeing Church and Community Based Night Shelters in localities and we hope his appointment will encourage people to nag their own Bishop to lead from the front as the church keeps homeless as a priority, in both word and deed!”
St Dionis is a Grade II listed Anglican church in Fulham. It has successfully increased its congregation in the last few years, following a partnership with Holy Trinity Brompton which saw a ‘graft’ of people come across to join the church. The team at St Dionis are currently working on the ‘Living Space’ project to renovate the building for the use of the community and create a new meeting space, repair the flooring, update the lighting and heating system.
The Revd Tim Stilwell, Vicar of St Dionis, commented:
“We are privileged to partner with Glass Door. They enable us to reach out with God’s love in practical ways to those who would otherwise experience the cold and hunger of life on the streets, exacerbated by the sense of social exclusion, this Christmas.”
You can find out more about St Dionis and the living space project at their website: www.stdionis.org.uk.