Winter Night Shelter at St James's
The winter shelter operates over the coldest winter months and is run by volunteers and members of our church community. St James's is one of several churches taking part in this project which is coordinated by Westminster Churches Winter Shelter.
The homeless men and women who come to the shelter - our guests - are referred by an intermediate agency; it is not a drop-in service. A hot evening meal is provided, a warm place to sleep and breakfast in the morning. To contact the St James's co-ordinator, please use the contact form (right).
Thoughts on the experience of volunteering at the Night Shelter
Marcus, a new volunteer with the Winter Shelter, reports on the experience (January 2016/PDF)
And Frances writes, after the 2016/2017 programme:
Half past five, Tuesday afternoon. I give my to-do list for the following day a final read, mentally going through all the ways in which it will probably be derailed the following morning. I give my inbox a final glance, just to make sure there’s nothing else that needs to be added to the list. I pick up my rucksack and my gym bag, and then I launch myself out the door towards Old Street Tube station. I speed past fellow commuters, because I am busy. I am a busy person who has places to go, people to see, and to-do lists combat. I busy myself all the way to Piccadilly, sighing at slow walkers and directing heavy stares at those who do not care to move down inside the tube carriage. As I stand in the armpit of a fellow passenger, I curse myself for not booking into my 7am gym class the following morning, the gym class which I now know is inevitably booked to capacity.
Six o’clock, Tuesday evening. St James’ Piccadilly. The soup this evening is leek and potato. Anna will be doing small-scale clay modelling at the art table. We will be having rice, salad and fish curry for dinner, followed by fruit, sponge pudding and ice cream. The tables are laid with cloths, plates, flowers, napkins and decorated tea lights that were fashioned at the art table the previous week.
The first time I volunteered at Winter Shelter, I worried about what I would say. My go-to conversational armour, consisting of of “What do you do?”, “Do you live locally?” and “Can you believe how expensive travelcards are?” was totally and utterly redundant. I worried that I would look out of place and over-entitled volunteering at a homeless shelter. Honestly, it felt like playing a part . But, as I quickly realised, this is not about me. It’s about hospitality in the most basic sense of the word; a hot meal, a roof to sleep under, somewhere safe to spend the night. It’s a basic human right to have these things, and it’s basic human instinct to provide them for one another, although that latter point can often so unfortunately get swept up and lost in the day-to-day clamour of life and work.
The main focus of the shelter is to provide care for those who are in need. I was, and still am, struck by how it is a facsimile of family life at home. But, we don’t know each other. Some of us have never even met before. And yet, we sit and talk. Sometimes there are pauses in conversation, and sometimes people don’t want to talk at all, but that’s okay. We eat together, grateful of food cooked with care. We wash up, clean down the table, and then go to bed. This kind of hospitality is unexceptional. But, that’s kind of the point.