Eight weeks into the UK shut down and Webber Street is still operating under the government guidelines and caring for vulnerable people to the best of our ability.
Although our physical building still remains closed, our hearts and our hands remain open and we are more committed to serving our guests during this time than ever before.
The great weather and sunshine have definitely helped our guests who are still out on the streets feel more positive and have helped make their situation be more bearable than if it was cold out or miserable.
We are still seeing some of our guests be verified as homeless by the local outreach teams and be referred for accommodation. Although this is a timely process, it is so satisfying to find out that they have been allocated a space and we rejoice and are so happy for each one of them when they are accommodated. Many times, their first comment after being informed they have accommodation is that they say that they can’t wait to have a shower which is not surprising as many of them have not had a shower for a number of weeks.
In the interim they are grateful for the toiletries The Globe Church is providing which we are able to distribute to them a few times each week.
A surprise and encouragement for the team at Webber Street and the Mission is a thank-you message we received in the Metro from one of our guests who has been accessing our services for the past two months.
We have been able to remain in contact with one of the young females who we were able to refer to the outreach team for accommodation. We speak to her on a regular basis over the phone and have been able to deliver toiletries and books to her. We were able to give her a copy of The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and other Christian literature which she really appreciated.
One of our Romanian guests who was waiting for a hotel allocation was getting very discouraged and despondent at how long the process was taking. It was such a delight to tell him one morning that he had been allocated a space. After he got his takeaway breakfast, one of the local outreach teams arranged transport for him to where he was allocated from the Day Centre. His surprise and beaming face as he got into the UBER is a picture that will remain etched in my memory forever. Language was a barrier but his exuberance and the expression on his face reflected how grateful he was.
Witnessing local Churches and individuals being mindful and generous toward our work amongst the homeless and the poor. We are so grateful to every person and Church who has given so freely of their time and resources, etc. so that we can continue providing a vital service to our guests during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the COVID-19 shut-down, Webber Street has continued to operate as an essential service, keeping in line within Government guidelines, by serving takeaway breakfasts to those who still find themselves living on the streets. We estimate that the number of people we served on a daily-basis this week ranged between 40 – 70 people.
Since the shut-down was announced, Webber Street has had to adapt and assess our current service and will continue to do so on a daily basis which may result in us needing to change our approach and direction as necessary.
Currently, the small team comprising of the Team Leader, staff and church volunteers are preparing and handing out food and serving tea and coffee to the homeless outside of our building. In addition, we are giving out much needed toiletries.
We realise that continuing this ministry is vitally important and will be until such a time as all the homeless in the area are accommodated. Whilst many homeless individuals have been put up in hotels, many are still waiting for this to become a reality. This is no easy task to co-ordinate, particularly for the local outreach teams responsible for this task.
Working in partnership to maximise the help we can provide to rough sleepers at this time is crucial. This week in particularwe have been able to focus on working more closely with the Lambeth outreach team and have helped them to compile a list of the homelessindividuals in the area who still need to be accommodated. We trust that this will be helpful in speeding up the process of getting rough sleepers off the streets.
Another partnership we have been so grateful to have and develop during the crisis, is our partnerships with local Churches. We have had a handful of church volunteers help us this week and we are so grateful to them for their sacrifice and time as well as for the Churches who have so kindly and generously donated food and supplies to Webber Street to distribute to those who find themselves even more vulnerableand desperate during this pandemic.
The Evening Standard posted a picture on page 2 of our clients queuing up for a take-away breakfast on Wednesday morning,which highlighted the urgent need for rough sleep to be accommodated where they can be warm, safe and self-isolate if necessary.
Bishops Local Policing Team cycled past Webber Street and stopped to chat to staff. They assured us of their support and gave us their details to contact them if we needed to.
One of the local residents, Mr. T, thanked us for what we were doing and ensured us of his support and asked how he could help. He also dropped off some fruit with us this week to hand outto those who were coming to the food hand-out.
We aim to continue serving take-away breakfasts next week and will continue assessing the current situation to see how we can best serve the homeless community during this difficult and challenging time.
Imagine wearing the same clothes all day and all night for days if not weeks on end. Well that is what rough sleepers have to do. So an important part of our mission at Webber Street is to offer showers and clean clothes. Our guests feel so much better after a shower and a set of clean clothes.
We rely on donations for our clothing store. What we desperately need are underpants, socks and t shirts. We give out some 75 sets of underwear each week. Other clothing in demand are jeans or casual trousers, anoraks, shoes and sweaters. Most of our guests are men, but we do have a few ladies and we need knickers and t shirts for them.
We are very grateful for all those who donate clothes, but we are quite specific in our requirements (as detailed above). Our guests do not change into their pyjamas, dressing gown and slippers before bedding down for the night in a park or alley way. Nor do they get dressed up in a suit and shirt to go to the office. We do not necessarily need new clothes – just clean ones.
Each Wednesday lunch time we hold an interactive Bible Study for Webber Street guests who are interested in the Bible. The number of attendees can vary week to week between two and ten. This week we had nine guests attending from different backgrounds, Two Romanian Orthodox, several from Roman Catholic backgrounds and some with no faith background but who are interested in what we believe. We are currently working through a series studying the Old Testament and discussing how it points us to Jesus.
Over the coming weeks we will be giving some updates as to how this is going on our facebook page: facebook.com/webberstreet
Over the coming weeks we are going to be using this space to talk a little about some of what we do at Webber Street and some of the challenges we face. Each of the posts will be written by our staff, the first is about Alcohol:
Alcohol addiction is one of the most common issues we deal with at Webber Street. It’s closely connected with our work as it can be either the cause or result of homelessness. All too often we see people get caught in the cycle of drinking and it prevents them working to improve their situation. Usually people have turned to alcohol as a means of attempting to deal with another issue in their life or to try and ease with living on the streets and unfortunately leads to further issues mainly with physical and mental health.
Thankfully there is help available for those who seek it. We work closely with organisations who run rehab programs allowing guests the chance to deal with the issues which led them to alcohol.
On Sunday 14th July Jean-Louis, one of our staff at Webber Street is going to be running the British 10K. His target is to raise £2,500 so that we can buy a whole years supply of underpants (5000 pairs) for the men and women who use our services. Here is a link to his just giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/Jean-Louis-Kassis
The Royal Parks foundation have just released images of the 2013 shirt. I’m sure you’ll agree this rather fetching red shirt will stand out perfectly amongst the autumnal golds, oranges and yellows of London’s Royal Parks.