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Methodist Churches Bring Hope to Homeless!

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Methodist Churches Bring Hope to Homeless!

The London District are in awe by the amazing work that Churches and Circuits do in and around the District. During the winter months, as temperatures drop we are particularly grateful for the work that is taking place in the various night shelters that provide shelter, warmth, food and so much more to those in need.  We give thanks to all Churches and Circuits within the District who are working with the homeless.

Glass Door are one of London’s largest emergency winter night shelter, Glass Door (formerly WLCHC) provides a safe, warm place to sleep for just under 100 men and women every night in winter from November to early April. They have partnered up with Rivercourt, Chelsea Methodist Church, Askew Road, and the United Reform Church.  Read Melissa Kerschen’s reflection below about the night Shelters operating from some of the Churches within the District.

It’s a Sunday night, and the temperature outside hovers just above freezing. Inside the Rivercourt Methodist Church in West London, people of all ages and nationalities are laughing and chatting over a home-cooked roast chicken dinner. Kwaku Anokye Tieku, the regular organist at the church, plays the piano, accepting requests for everything from Abba to Gershwin by way of Elvis Presley.

It would be easy to mistake the scene for a party, but it’s really a homeless shelter that feeds about 60 and provides overnight shelter for 35 individuals who would otherwise be sleeping rough. Tonight and every Sunday night for the past 17 winters, Rivercourt Methodist Church hosts a bustling homeless shelter.

Rivercourt Methodist Church is one of 22 different churches in London that work with Glass Door Homeless Charity to run night shelters. On any given night, three churches open their doors, allowing about 95 individuals to find a safe, warm place to sleep every night during the coldest months of the year.  The network, made up of Catholic, Anglican, Baptist and Methodist churches, take turns hosting shelters seven days a week from early November to April.

Methodists were instrumental in the setting up of the charity, and in addition to Rivercourt, the Chelsea Methodist Church, the Barnes Methodist Church, and the Askew Road Methodist and United Reform Church partner with Glass Door to shelter men and women one night of the week.  These churches, and the volunteers involved, are at the heart of the biggest homeless shelter network in the country.

This year, over 700 volunteers have registered with the charity and given their time to cook, set up shelters, serve food and clean up. The numbers ebb and flow at Rivercourt, but about a dozen volunteers are usually on hand Sunday nights to cook, clean and chat with the guests. (Glass Door staff and volunteers always refer to the men and women who come through their doors as “guests”, in recognition of each individual’s inherent dignity.)  

Steve Lawrence, a volunteer coordinator at the Rivercourt Methodist Church, first got involved because “it was something concrete I could do to help,” he says. “We always say ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.’” he says, quoting a line from Matthew in the Bible. “But I think I continued to carry on volunteering because it’s fun.”

Steven is quick to give credit to the rest of the “dedicated and talented” volunteer team and his wife and co-coordinator, Vicky, for creating a warm environment full of good humour. The volunteers not only give up their time, but many have raised funds for the charity, taking part or supporting the annual Sleep Out event. Others source food from within the local community.

The Chelsea Methodist Church serves as the hub for the network, running a day centre that provides lunch, showers, and laundry services three days a week. The homeless men and women who use the Chelsea Methodist drop-in centre can also see a doctor, get their hair cut, access a clothing bank and speak to caseworkers.

The caseworkers are on hand to help the guests move beyond homelessness. This winter, the guests have ranged in age from 18 to 75, and about 15% are women. Halfway through the winter season, 22 individuals have been supported into finding work, and 44 individuals have moved into more stable housing.

Steve says he loves to hear from the men and women after they’ve gotten back on their feet. He recounts the story of Lorentzo, who was a guest at the homeless shelter last year. Lorentzo came back to the Rivercourt Methodist Church last December to let everyone know he now has two jobs, savings and a place to live. Lorentzo passed on his thanks to the staff and volunteers for all their support and for giving him food and shelter through a rough time in his life. He recalled how Kwaku used to play his favourite song, Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, and how much it meant to him.

By 9:30pm, the music and banter have ended, plates have been cleared away, and the 35 guests begin to roll out their sleeping mats under the dark arched beams of the Methodist church. Volunteers return to their homes, and those that only come for dinner because the shelter is full spill outside, knowing they now need to find a place to rest for the night. Inside the relatively warm church, a couple of staff members stay awake to guard over the church and its guests.

Visit Glass Door’s website to find out more about the charity and how to get involved. www.glassdoor.org.uk


Kwaku provides music for homeless guests and volunteers


Steve and Vicky Lawrence coordinate the volunteer team at Rivercourt Methodist Church’s night shelter

Visit Glass Door’s website to find out more about the charity and how to get involved. www.glassdoor.org.uk

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