No one needs to go hungry in London
Two weeks after my first shift, I returned to St James’s Winter Shelter for my second, this time as part of the overnight team. Two volunteers, along with the guests, are required to stay overnight in the body of the church. The Winter Shelter provides named and labelled bedding for each guest at the start of the season so they have the same bedding every stay. Once dinner and the evening’s entertainment had finished (although I’m not sure my hacked-about version of Claire de Lune on the piano would count as “entertainment”) the guests made their way upstairs to the church where there was enough room to spread out. It’s organised so there is a women only area and separate toilets as well. Lights out was at 11pm and despite the unbelievable snoring (sounded like a trumpet!) before I knew it, it was 6.15am and time to get up.
So, back to the familiar territory of the kitchen to prepare breakfast; cereals, fruit and yoghurt. By 8am breakfast is due to be over and all the bedding neatly packed away. On this occasion we were a little behind schedule – understandably no-one is in a hurry to leave.
A highlight of the night was helping a guest get ready for his first day at his new job! Felt good. Great tips from another guest on getting top spin when playing table tennis. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to be remembered and welcomed by another guest, “hey, you’re the chef, sausages were banging!”
Courtesy of the Pret a Manger Foundation Trust we collected food from our nearest branch (as do all the shelters) to give to guests as they left for their lunch that day. Undoubtedly the walk from St James to Green Park, past the shops of Piccadilly, the Ritz and bright lifts of Mayfair makes seeing someone homeless even more poignant.
The work that organisations such as the West London Day Centre carry out, makes a massive difference to people’s lives. Without being laid back about it, perhaps the most extraordinary comment I heard from one of the group was how food is not a problem in London, no-one needs to go hungry. Good to know, but all the same, it’s hard seeing the look on a guest’s face the next morning, preparing to venture out onto the streets again. So very sad.
If you wish to help through donations, charitable giving or volunteering please check out their website http://www.wlm.org.uk/how-you-can-help/donations or their Just Giving page https://www.justgiving.com/warmbedsnotcoldstreets/
– Written by Marcus C.