I started volunteering with HWNS after being introduced by a friend. We’d been walking through central London on a cold night at the beginning of October, when the weather starts to turn, and you notice the people sleeping rough even more acutely. She’d been volunteering at the Thursday night shelter for over five years and put me in touch with the coordinator.
In the age of the internet and the mass media, we’re confronted daily with a barrage of bad news. The harrowing stories, being reported across the country and around the world, can start to blur together like a thick fog. It becomes easy to see the plight of homeless people living minutes from your own front door as another strike on the long list of problems which you feel helpless to do anything about.
Volunteering with HWNS has given me an opportunity to make a difference to the people living difficult lives on the streets that I walk every day. I’m now part of an inspiring and dedicated network of volunteers. The atmosphere at St Paul’s where I volunteer is one of kindness, warmth and determination to cook a knockout meal that everyone will enjoy!
I’ve had the chance to connect with people in my community who I wouldn’t otherwise have met. Sometimes after a long day, the guests just want to get some food and rest. But in my experience, they’re usually keen to chat to you over dinner, discuss their days and share their stories.
For some people helped by HWNS it seems as though adult life has been one long endurance test. But I’ve also spoken to people who, through the breakdown of a relationship or a job loss, have just fallen on hard times. I’ve gained a better understanding of what a complex issue homelessness is: how stability so often rests on a knife edge.
Community can be a difficult thing to come across in London. But all that it really needs is a group of people who are connected; who love where they live and want to make sure that everyone is looked after and supported. That no one slips through the net. For me, HWNS truly embodies this.