Chiswick Churches to Shelter Homeless

Pilot Project starts this month to take those sleeping rough off the streets

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Chiswick churches are set to open their doors to the homeless as part of a pilot project starting this month. The Shelter Project, which is spearheaded by Christ Church at Turnham Green, will run for 12 weeks starting on January 8th, and the churches will provide hot food and overnight accommodation for homeless men on a rotating basis staffed by volunteers.

The Shelter Project is the brainchild of Chiswick resident Andrée Lee, who became concerned about people sleeping rough during the last cold winter in 2010 and raised the matter in her church. Encouraged by the response from her vicar and the congregation, she decided to press ahead with organising a scheme which offered overnight shelter throughout the area.

A small steering group was set up at Christ Church which contacted all the churches in Chiswick, Brentford and Isleworth, inviting them to join the scheme- most have already had contact with homeless individuals and were enthusiastic about coming together to provide a
well-run system.

Over 160 volunteers have now been trained up, and Mrs. Lee, who is Project Co-Ordiator of The Shelter Project said that the response has been phenomenal from offering bedding equipment, to clothing and other help. Fifteen churches attended an information evening last July.

She says the project has now developed " an amazing buzz" and 15 men of "low need' have been identified as potential regular users, who for various reasons have lost their homes. There are relatively few homeless women as outreach agencies have been more successful in
helping those women found sleeping rough, she commented. "We have been going through stringent health and safety procedures at each venue to ensure safe practice for both hosts and guests. Most of us can't wait to start, especially as the cold weather seems to have arrived." said Mrs. Lee

The initiative currently involves nearly 30 churches spanning from Chiswick through to Brentford, Isleworth, Osterley, Isleworth, Twickenham and Hounslow Central.

The pilot project will run nightly for a total of 12 weeks from January 8th till March 31st 2012, with a different church hosting the shelter each night of the week. The shelters will open at 8pm each evening and end by 8am the next morning. The homeless guests will be
assessed by three experienced referral agencies before they gain access to our church buildings for a hot evening meal, overnight accommodation and breakfast the next morning.

" We aim to offer welcome, hospitality, companionship, food, warmth and security to those who for various reasons have no roof over their heads, so that they would not suffer or perish in the extreme winter weather conditions which the UK has been experiencing" she said.

"The ultimate hope of all volunteer workers in shelters is that they can help the homeless guest move on from their present predicament and not remain in that mindset or lifestyle. We have become part of a network of support agencies who focus on different aspects of homelessness, and each play their part to meet the particular needs of an individual who has nowhere to live, and often, no recourse to public funds through no fault of their own.

The Shelter Project is entirely operated and funded by local churches and their volunteers. We would love for the initiative to be supported by local bodies and businesses so that there is a community response of compassion and effective help for the growing numbers of rough sleepers in our neighbourhoods." added Andree Lee.

Anyone who wants to get involved,either to donate much needed funds, bedding, food, or even to come to work at a shelter as a volunteer can contact Andrée Lee (Project Co-Ordinator) on

December 30, 2011