We’ve teamed up with Glass Door, St Mary’s Church of England Church, Battersea Church Road and Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Trott Street to support homeless people in Battersea over the coming winter months.
The number of rough sleepers in London has trebled over the last 10 years. By and large, people don’t choose to be homeless but find themselves sleeping on the streets because they are facing major crises in their lives such as relationship breakdown, redundancy, poor mental health, domestic abuse and more. Homeless people are some of the most vulnerable and socially excluded people in our society. With support, people can leave homelessness behind.
As a local charity we want to play our part in addressing this and do something about it. So we’ve been working with experienced homeless charity Glass Door, St Mary’s and Sacred Heart – local Battersea churches – and agreed to open up our community centre as a place where they can get a hot meal and spend the night warmly and safely.
Felicity Prazak, a local resident and member of the congregation at St Mary’s, is the Volunteer Coordinator for our Battersea shelter. Here she reflects on the first night.
“It felt like the first night at the theatre waiting for the curtain to rise and the lighting to fall on the stage scenery with the spotlight beaming on the actors as they entered for the opening scene. The air felt electric with excitement: would our first night be a success? Would everything fall into place? This wasn’t a play but a real life event, we were going into unchartered territory. Our inaugural night for hosting the Glass Door Winter Night Shelter for homeless guests at Katherine Low Settlement.
Everything seemed under control, I had picked up the food from the Family Butcher who puts the order together for us each week. My son and I had arrived at KLS at 4.30pm erring on the early side to meet with the caretaker and give me a chance to check and layout the equipment in the kitchen.
It was worse than stage fright when I only found a small paring knife, a rusty peeler and a broken tin opener in the drawer! We needed a team of at least three volunteers to prepare the vegetables, chop the onions, peel the carrots the jobs seemed endless, even the tinned tomatoes wouldn’t make it into the sauce as there was no ring pull to open them. Then there was the missing pan, we just didn’t have enough to do the soup, boil the water and cook the meat and veggie options for the meal.
Panic seemed an option but who would that help? Not our hungry guests or the volunteers that were due any minute to put the play into action. We are a team, Simon our vicar had told me. So I called on help. David went to ASDA to buy a set of knives, Carol rang Geoff to bring the church keys and Evalyn and Peter scrambled down to church to pick up the much needed pot. Dinner was under way.
The second act was setting up the dining room and laying out the tables. I must give praise to our Sacred Heart brethren who did this beautifully. The tables looked fit for a banquet.
There was a short interlude when Bruce the Glass Door Manager went over the seven golden rules and finished with a prayer, we knew all was well. The hearty meal of leek and potato soup, pasta and mince followed by brownies was well received by the guests and the volunteers who were by this time much deserving of an intermission.
The conversation flowed with the guests who continually expressed their gratitude as if we had put on an Oscar winning performance. They were the real stars and the ones that deserved a round of applause.
The air lingered with humility as we walked out the door as the guests settled down on their sleeping mats and the words of C.S. Lewis resonated to me, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less (and if I might add) and of others more.”
Get involved and volunteer
If you would like to get involved and volunteer at the night shelter, then please contact St Mary’s Parish Office: [email protected]
Note: Felicity’s reflections were first published in St Mary’s newsletter (17th November 2019)