St Anselm’s Parish in Southall, west London, has been served by the Jesuits for ten years. The 2,500 parishioners come from many ethnic backgrounds and numbers attending Mass are growing fast.
Southall is a vibrant and diverse multicultural community and continually attracts many new visitors and residents. A very small minority of these newcomers or those experiencing major life problems can find themselves homeless and sleeping on the streets. As parish priest Fr Gerard Mitchell SJ explains:
“The area around St Anselm’s Church is one of the most open public spaces in Southall and there used to be eight people regularly sleeping rough, so in partnership with four other churches and other local charities we established Hope for Southall Street Homeless.
The Sanctuary provides a safer environment for some intensive work by the key workers of partner charities and agencies: StreetMed, Outreach, StreetLegal. In a safer environment our friends do not need alcohol or drugs to get to sleep. Confidential conversations take place and trust can be built.
Since we opened the Sanctuary, which rotates seven nights per week around five churches, the impact of the project has been very positive. For the first period in more than three years there are no rough sleepers on our site. Twenty rough sleepers have now come off the streets of Southall. Of these, four have found accommodation either through the local authority or with family. Two of these had previously failed to engage with the borough outreach Team and were particularly vulnerable. Two are now dealing with health concerns through attention of the StreetMed nurse who makes regular visits.
Homeless people in Southall do not always fit the profile of rough sleepers elsewhere in the UK . The greater proportion do not have access to public funds for benefits and are unable to get out of their desperate situation leading to a spiral of despair, hopelessness and frequently addiction. Some are destitute asylum seekers and migrants.
We treat all who come to us as our friends and neighbours. People flourish when they have a sense of their own value and dignity, when they can trust those around them, and have a network of positive, supportive relationships. St Ignatius used to emphasize “cura personalis” – care of the whole person, in his precepts for Jesuit life. This is what we seek to offer through our partners and volunteers : care, acceptance and respect are just as important as food, warmth and shelter, in helping them to rebuild their lives.”
If you would like to volunteer with or support Hope for Southall Street Homeless please get in touch with the co-ordinator John Murphy: [email protected]
Pray with us
In your house
Father, in your house there is room enough for everyone. We pray for those who live in crowded shanties with paper-thin walls, corrugated iron roofs, no clean water, no electricity, no hope.
We pray for families who are squeezed into one inadequate room; refugees in tents, cold in winter, hot in summer; young people in night shelters, lonely and apprehensive.
We pray for people who sleep rough in all weather.
Father, this was not your intention. It is we who allow this to happen to your people. It is we who must arm ourselves with your courage, love and compassion, so that we can build the Kingdom of hope where people can live in dignity, comfort and security.
In your Holy Name,
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