Following on from the example of Pope Francis who constantly encourages followers of Jesus to look for ways to reach out to those on the margins of Church and society, the parish community in Quex Road, Kilburn, London, have taken upon themselves the task of helping at a homeless shelter in the next parish in Cricklewood.
We began by providing food one night a week, but this soon spread through an appeal in the Quex Bulletin. The generosity of people in Kilburn is outstanding. Now, we, as a parish, support Ashford Place, three nights a week, each night having its own team. There is a great atmosphere in the kitchen and in the dining room as we work together in cleaning plates, chopping vegetables, slicing chickens, frying sausages or hamburgers as we try to make a meal for the group of between 17 to 27 men and women.
Every Sunday evening the young people from Quex Youth Club and the Confirmation Group join in and help to prepare the food. It is fabulous to see the young people making such a fantastic contribution to the project. Some nights after the meal has finished and we have cleaned up with the residents, we have arts and craft classes, play bingo, take part in guitar classes or just sit around and sign together. Some of the nights the young people prepare some homemade cakes to share at the end of the meal.
With the support of the staff at Ashford Place the residents are helped to find rented accommodation and, if possible, employment as soon as possible. This means that there is a high turnover of residents at the Centre. It is great to see former residents coming back to join us for a meal.
The residents come from many countries and therefore speak many languages. At times the group is predominately Muslim and this means that the majority of the food has respect their rituals and customs. What is really striking each evening is how grateful the men and women are to the volunteers. They really appreciate that people they don’t know would go out of their way to feed them and befriend them.
The parishioners at Church donate the money each week to cover the costs of buying the food. There is a real sense of the faith community supporting this venture. This is a practical way of us reaching out to those on the margins of our community whilst making a difference in this Year of Mercy and helping to keep the flame of faith alive. (Fr. Terry MURRAY in Oblate Connections, February 2016)