14/06/2017

I attended this event last month at the invitation of the Vice Chairman, Mubashir Siddiqi and his wife Samina who are Ahmadiyya Muslims. Samina approached me after I delivered a shelters presentation at a Redbridge Faith Forum event in January and we have corresponded since. Both Mubashir and Samina joined me on a visit to the FCENS homeless shelter project in Waltham Forest in March and it was a great pleasure to reciprocate by attending their annual Charity Walk on May 14th. Despite not intending to actually do the walk on the day, I found myself drawn in on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny morning by the whole atmosphere and environment and the marvellous diversity of people assembled for this fabulous common cause.

I had a couple of particularly stimulating conversations on my way round the circuitous route spanning the old dockland area of the Thames, with folks I had never met before – ‘strangers’, some would say, but these people certainly did not seem like strangers to me. On the contrary, we clearly had a lot in common despite our apparent differences. This prompted me to reflect, as I walked, on Muslim and multi-faith involvement in the shelters network which, I am glad to say, is growing year on year.

 Last winter, with the help of the Housing Justice support package for start-up shelter projects, a new

night shelter for rough sleepers in Leicester rotated between Anglican and Catholic churches, a Muslim community centre, a Synagogue and a Hindu temple for 11 weeks in the first multi-faith venture of its kind in the UK. Seven faiths or denominations were involved, with Quakers and Sikhs providing support and meals at different religious venues. More than 200 people from different faith communities and of no faith have volunteered to support the project…

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/15/multifaith-homeless-shelter-leicester-churches-synagogue-muslim

Homelessness is a great leveller and it is a constant delight for me and my colleague in this work here at Housing Justice, Emma Neill, to see how such a great diversity of people of all colours, creeds, ages and personal and professional status will at least park their differences while they get on with the work, together, of providing shelter for our homeless brethren using this incredibly successful circuit model.

Although Leicester is a first in terms of multi-faith collaboration from the outset, it is important to acknowledge the considerable and growing involvement of a multitude of faith and community groups across the CCNS network since the late nineties, early noughties. This includes Synagogues that are shelter venues on the Westminster and Barnet shelter circuits; Wimbledon Mosque hosting a shelter night on the Merton shelter project; the crucial Sikh community support for the Hope for Southall Street Homeless project in Ealing; and a whole scope of other Churches, Temples, Mosques and Gudwaras that support shelter projects in their neighbourhoods in many other ways. This includes providing volunteers, cooking meals, doing laundry, donating clothes and personal hygiene products, arranging creative activities on shelter nights for guests and volunteers such as art workshops, hairdressing etc., etc.

Since our Coventry Roadshow event in November last year which brought together organisations, faith and community groups working to support people who are homeless, Emma has been supporting the start-up of a new Faith Homeless Forum there. Its purpose is to support faith and community groups to work together and, along with statutory funded projects, to share training opportunities, to share information, to provide support and avoid duplication- to work more effectively for those they seek to serve together.

It is a joy to behold and instills great hope and motivation in us to continue in this work despite the dismal state of current affairs in the UK with homelessness on the rise and an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor that threatens our society.

 

 

 

Mark Brennan

Housing Justice, Shelter Projects Coordinator