A volunteers view of The Whitechapel Mission

When I needed a
neighbour were you there?

By a volunteer from Raunds Methodist Church.

On a damp miserable
foggy morning we set off from Raunds (at 3:30am!) to bring some brightness and
warmth to those on the streets of London.

We arrived at the Whitechapel Mission just after
5:25 and the reason we were there was immediately apparent with
someone curled up in a sleeping bag on the pavement outside.

Having got into the
mission and met Tony the resident manager we set about buttering
toast and bread and cooking an endless amount of bacon, sausages,
beans, tomatoes, hash browns, mushrooms and eggs (fried or

The doors opened at 6am
and there was an immediate queue for endless teas and coffees as well
as towels, razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste. CCTV is present
throughout the building even in the washrooms/toilets due to problems
with self harming and drug abuse which I suppose highlight a lot of
the underlying issues with the homeless in any town/city.

Breakfast started at
8am and it was non-stop until 10am. Then there was an hour of giving
out clothes, hats, scarves, and shoes before it was time for them to
go back onto the streets and for us to clean up. As Tony pointed out
today is not so bad because Crisis at Christmas starts this afternoon
meaning there are alternatives to the streets but only over the
“festive” period.

The image that will
stay with me I suppose is of those that slept on the floor of the
hall and on the chairs with their heads on their arms whilst the
mission was open. This is because is some areas of London – such
as Westminster – by laws have been passed that prohibit people
sleeping on the streets and wardens actively move people on during
the night or they are arrested. They also feel safer sleeping at a
table than on the streets where they are at risk of muggings and

Tony said the greatest
gift we gave today was not the food or the clothing but the smiles
and recognition that these are fellow human beings who are important.

Today we were there to
be a neighbour will you be able to say the same?


Note from Dave.

See 42: Counted out and back again for more photos.

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