In 2010 I was elected to the Pastoral Parish Council of the Sacred Heart Church in Mill Hill. This is the body which oversees the activities in the Parish and works with other groups to help develop activities within the parish. The PPC itself organises a few events, but its primary role is to act as facilitators to ensure that the resources available are used in the most beneficial way for all concerned.
Yesterday the PPC organised a day of renewal for its members and representatives of other groups in the parish and locality. A group of speakers were arranged to discuss all manner of initiatives in the locality and the theme was very much on addressing social needs in and around Mill Hill.
We had a couple of guest speakers. The first of these was the Rev Steven Young from St Michaels and All Angels, which is the Anglican Church over the road. Rev Young was speaking about his experiences running an overnight shelter for homeless people in Camden Town. The various local faith groups in Barnet have set up a scheme to provide overnight sleeping arrangements for a group of up to 15 homeless people in Barnet. This was pioneered in Finchley with a joint initiative between the local Jewish community and various churches. Fr Steven gave a graphic account of some of the challenges which the scheme will face and also the enormous good it can do. It is good to see diverse groups working together to deliver something practical and such initiatives were the reason I put my name forward for the PPC in the first place.
We also had a represenative give a run down on the work on the overnight shelter scheme.
Mill Hill Churches will be hosting an overnight shelter one night a week at John Keeble Church for six weeks in March and April. Meals will be provided as well as sleeping facilities. The scheme is run in association with Homeless Action Barnet.
We also had a vistor from Borehamwood, who explained how their church was participating in a scheme to organise a food bank. She explained how the local rotary club had organised collections at Morrisons and Tescos and how the supermarkets had supported the scheme. She also explained how many families are teetering on the brink of a financial precipice and the food bank fills a vital need ensuring families can get a decent meal.
I spoke of the work of The Passage, a homeless day centre in Victoria which is another charity which the Sacred Heart supports. I explained how we provide a hot meal for homeless people, but how this was not the main thrust of the work, which was to try and help people resolve the issues which made people homeless in the first place.
What struck me was the amount of work we have to do on our own doorstep just to ensure people have a roof or a meal. In a rich country like the UK that is a scandal. I urge everyone to support these initiatives. I am greatly encouraged by the way the local religious groups are working together on this. I personally would also encourage people who don't want to particpiate through such groups but who care about such issues to find a way of participating. The need is real and growing.