Muslim Aid teamed up with Streetlytes, the homeless charity which helps vulnerable people in West London, on Monday evening to help rough-sleepers keep warm.
Once a week, Streetlytes opens its doors at St. Stephen’s Church in Shepherd’s Bush to around 100 homeless and vulnerable guests for an evening of hot food, practical support and friendship.
Muslim Aid joined Streetlytes’ volunteers at the St. Stephen’s Church Soup Kitchen with 100 winter packs to distribute to those attending the shelter. The kit included a rucksack, sleeping bag, hat, pair of gloves, pair of socks, set of thermal underwear and scarf.
Rev. Bob Mayo said: “A big thank you to Muslim Aid for coming to help the homeless and destitute around Shepherd’s Bush. Islam and Christianity have both joined together in the common concern to serve the wider community and to help the most vulnerable.”
The latest government figures showed that 4,751 people slept rough across England on any given night in 2017 - a 15% increase compared with the previous year, and more than double than in 2010.
Colin, a regular at the winter shelter, was very pleased to receive the Muslim Aid rucksack packed with winter items and said initiatives such as the St. Stephen’s Church winter shelter were extremely important.
“The welfare state doesn’t really exist any more. It is a balancing act trying to get by as the government doesn’t give people enough to live on”, he said, “It’s a necessity to have places that cater like this -- without them, a lot of people wouldn’t eat!” Colin is retired now but he says his difficulties started earlier when he developed mental health problems as a result of what he saw when he served in the military in Northern Ireland.
“As you get older, life is supposed to get easier. You expect the ‘golden years’ to bring happiness and a better quality of life but it’s not like that any more”, he continued.
As well as receiving a warm meal on Mondays, visitors can watch a film and talk to volunteers from the church, Streetlytes and local businesses.
“Government departments are so fragmented nowadays that people fall through the loop. They have to pick themselves up and fend for themselves, especially as so much is online and many are computer illiterate. It is good to come here to the church as you can see someone here and they will help you”, Colin added.
The partnership falls within Muslim Aid’s Winter Campaign which focuses predominantly on developing countries. Muslim Aid has distributed blankets and gas heaters in Gaza; clothing vouchers for jackets, boots, pyjamas and hats, gloves and scarves in Syria; repaired and insulated tents for Syrian refugees and provided fuel to heat schools in the Lebanon; and given out kits with blankets and warm sweaters in Pakistan and Bangladesh.