Last Wednesday I went to St John’s church in Waterloo to help out with a homeless project called ROBES. The church, along with 6 others in the area, offer the homeless shelter and food for the duration of the winter months. Although I was slightly apprehensive at first as I had never been part such a project before, as soon as I walked through the door the other volunteers made me feel at ease and part of the team. There was lots to do – from greeting the guests, laying the table, serving the food (and the washing up!!) – but everyone worked together to make the experience as positive as possible for the guests. The guests were incredibly friendly, and grateful – and although at first one may not think it would be easy to find common ground, it was not difficult to get chatting – a humbling reminder that regardless of circumstances, we are all human and thus immediately share so much. ROBES is an incredibly important project to help the homeless get back on their feet, to make the winter months slightly more bearable, and provides a warm safe environment where they can support one another. The community feel was incredible, and I feel truly privileged to have been a part of it – I would highly recommend anyone thinking of volunteering to give it a go.
Written by: Natasha Wood
Info about the ROBES Project:
How the Project works- Each church hosts Robes for one night per week and works in a similar way. Guests are referred by the Manna Centre and sign an agreement that they will come to the Project each night. In return the Robes Project and Manna Centre undertake to help the guest find some accommodation and resolve any issues of residency, paperwork etc. Each church has a Team Leader, responsible for the guests and volunteers on their night.
The Need- In 2005 it was realised that there was no winter emergency night shelter provision for homeless people in south London between the river Thames and Croydon. Churches in Kennington and Bermondsey began to see if they could find partners to establish a shelter – neither managed to find enough. In 2006 they came together with the Manna Centre to establish the Robes Project – a winter shelter allowing respite from sleeping rough.