by Paola Greco
The annual Thanksgiving Service, following the end of another season at the Winter Shelter Project Hounslow, was held at Our Lady of Grace Parish Centre, Chiswick on Tuesday 22nd May.
The service was attended by a great number of volunteers from all the churches of different Christian denominations. It was led by Fr Michael McGuire, Assistant Priest, and Parish Priest Fr Michael Dunne gave a brief address to thank all the volunteers for their dedication and hard work in providing a friendly and caring atmosphere for all our guests.
After the service, the volunteers had an opportunity to meet for the first time and talk about their personal experiences. The shelter ran from 4th December to 29th March this season and saw some 31 guests being provided with a hot dinner and breakfast, and a bed for the night during the very cold winter spell.
There have been ups and downs this season. We could sense that after a couple of weeks all our guests were feeling at home in our churches and left in the morning knowing that they would return in the evening to another warm and welcoming atmosphere. Sadly, we were also notified of the death of two of our guests for whom life on the streets had become too hard.
The Shelter Project Hounslow started seven years ago thanks to the hard work, compassion and dedication of a handful of volunteers and just three churches taking part, and gradually developed in an extensive project. There are now 10 churches committed to opening as a shelter to welcome in 15/16 homeless men each night. In total, there are approximately 30 churches from Hounslow, Ealing and Richmond Boroughs sending volunteers to work at these shelters as mixed teams.
The project won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2017, the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work in their communities. The awards were created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and winners are announced each year on the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.
This award has been made possible by all the hard work and dedication of our volunteers. It would be fair to give thanks and pay tribute to all those who have worked together to provide a friendly and caring atmosphere: welcoming our guests, giving them respect and dignity as well as food and a bed.