It’s not difficult to appreciate that, if it were not for those in our borough, who out of compassion and caring for the plight of others our situation would be on a level close to social disaster. There are many groups in our borough who are extremely active within this type of provision with some practically offering a twenty four seven operation, but let me briefly acknowledge the inspirational work of just three likeminded groups in Lambeth.
There are several churches that contribute to the Robes Project whom I first met at Christ Church in Blackfriars Road, however it was soon clear that this Southwark based project, skilfully managed and guided by Olivia Newington is very closely linked to the work of St Mary’s Ace of Clubs centre for homeless and vulnerable people, operating in St Alphonsus Road Clapham. And more recently the missionary work of the Rev Arlington Trotman at Springfield Methodist Church has now realised the opening of its custom-built luncheon club, providing meals three days a week for those who are unemployed, unskilled, disabled or shut-in by age or illness, or a combination of these conditions.
I asked Sarah Miles from Ace of Clubs what was the most difficult part of doing this work. The answer was instant and painfully expressed in the helplessness of having to say “we can feed you, give you a change of clean clothes, make you comfortable and keep you warm but we don’t have any accommodation that we could offer you.” The worry is that these are not all rough sleepers but previously people with a home, lifestyles and hopes for the future. This social standing and stability has now been taken away by a cruelty of circumstances that flood their lives with difficulties and where economic crisis is real and streets the reality of their homelessness.
As I write and the temperature starts to fall the Robes Project are preparing to sleep out and Patrick who does all the washing at Ace of Clubs is filling yet another machine, drying out the next batch of woollens and Sarah checking the fruit and bread so generously donated by JS in Balham and M&S in Brixton. These consistent acts of giving back, carried out for whatever reason, are surely a credit to our borough. Deprived in parts we may be, (according to the statistics) but in caring we are in a league of our own because we are communities, who get on with a job that needs to be done and for this the volunteers are deserving of our heartfelt thanks.