Homelessness is a part of our story here at the Swiss Church. This connection is partly because of our locality, we are on the border between the two boroughs (Camden and Westminster) who together host 40% of all rough sleepers in London, and partly because of who we are, a church. As a church we imitate Christ in being accepting and welcoming to all, taking the time to listen to, show compassion and befriend those in need, the outcasts, the lonely.
Homelessness is a part of our context. In the last year support workers have seen 2, 197 rough sleepers in Westminster and 501 in Camden, two doors down from us is St Mungo’s Endell Street hostel where 53 homeless people live who are on the journey to finding permanent homes. From October we will be working with Streetwise Opera to provide workshops for previously homeless people, supporting people in the transition into ‘mainstream’ life.
So where do we fit into all of this?
The Swiss Church is an open church and as such we see lots of our neighbours and community who either come in or engage with our outreach projects. We want to be a part of the bigger picture in the community, not replicating, but working together with our friends and neighbours to best provide a wide spectrum of support for those that need it. I have become clued up on the local resources and often signpost people to services such as free legal advice at the Mary Ward Legal Centre, the Foodbank at St Georges Bloomsbury or free meals at Bloomsbury Baptist.
It is because of these other local provisions that we aim Holy Soup, Breakfast on the Steps, Swiss Connections and other events at everyone and we make a deliberate effort to be inclusive to our friends who are homeless in need. We live in a diverse community and we would love to see that reflected in the church. Some of the best moments I’ve had in my job have been sharing lunch or coffee with a businessman, an artist and someone who is homeless. Connecting and sharing. I believe there is an element of reconciliation that happens in these beautiful moments, when people from different worlds connect and realise their differences are less than they though
All broken, all beautiful, all human, all in it together.
The story of Christ is one of reconciliation and if we hope to be a part of that story here in Covent Garden.