Thanks for reading R&R this year. I continue to be encouraged by the growth of interest and from the comments and messages I receive via this blog. So far this year over 140,000 different people have visited the site.
As you may know, much of what is written comes from reflection on my work. I am very proud to lead the West London Mission’s work with homeless and vulnerable people. But times are tough – and we need support.
Rough sleeping continues to rise in central London. Official government figures show that rough sleeping has increased by 55% in the last five years – and this is the just the official figure.
The West London Mission remains on the frontline of meeting increasing demands with around 100 homeless people coming to our day centre every day. There, they can have a shower, get a hot breakfast and collect their post. They can also see a nurse for a medical check- up. Sadly, we regularly have to limit the amount because the building cannot cope with many more than this number.
And, to add to the challenges, we now receive no government funding for this work. In the last financial year, we felt we had to refuse long-standing funding from Westminster City Council because of new conditions they insisted on being attached to the grant. The changes would have meant us having to exclude people we consider vulnerable and in need of our help. We felt it was important to stand by our values of welcoming anyone in need.
Just to give you an example of what we do every day. A few weeks ago, a man called Jonathan (37) came to us after he was evicted when he fell behind with his rent. Unable to immediately find anywhere else affordable he ended up sleeping on night buses in London. When he came to the day centre we were able to book him into our winter night shelter that we run in conjunction with the churches and synagogue in Westminster. Then, we helped him find a studio flat in Brent which he moved into at the end of November.
Every day we see people made vulnerable through mental health issues, addictions, moving to look for work, bereavement, escaping conflict, or redundancy. We provide a place of refuge and work with them to understand their situation and their story and support them into accommodation and employment. Jonathan is just one example: last year we saw 1,621 different people and helped 302 people come off the streets.
As you can imagine, Christmas-time is one of the hardest times to be homeless. It’s not just the colder, wetter weather, it’s the memories of past Christmases shared with family and friends.
We continue to develop the services we offer. Our Chaplain, Ruth, is based at the Centre and leads the Spirituality Discussion Group every Tuesday. One of the highlights for the group this year was being given a tour of the House of Lord’s, courtesy of the Bishop of Portsmouth. And this November, we opened a clinic especially for homeless people’s dogs in partnership with Trusty Paws, a charity which coordinates student Vets who volunteer their time to offer services to homeless people’s dogs.
Any help appreciated!
So for all these reasons, we need help, more than ever. We have done a lot of work to reduce costs where we can and are now receiving more and more donations of food which has helped expenditure. But this year we really need supporters to be as generous as possible.
It costs us around £150 to help a homeless person off the streets and back into accommodation. This includes providing an initial assessment, drawing up an action plan, liaising with specialist agencies, and continued support while assisting the client to move into accommodation.
If you are able to donate please visit our Just Giving Page. Please remember that the Day Centre runs on a tight budget so even a small donation can make a big difference!
Thank you for any help you can give and have a very Happy Christmas!
Jon Kuhrt, West London Mission
PS: The West London Mission doesn’t have a Communications team or a large central office, so if you can share this post via facebook or twitter that would greatly help us!