Reverend Reflections


In the third of a series of articles, Revd James Gilder of Wanstead Parish is seeking volunteers to help the homeless at this year’s night shelter initiative, and introduces a new mental health outreach project

Most of us have probably felt conflicted at one point or another when being accosted by someone who appears to be homeless, asking for money. As a wearer of the dog collar, this can be even more of a problem for me – the expectation is that I will have an ever-ready supply of small change and sympathy. I’m afraid I often disappoint in this regard, particularly when trudging bleary-eyed to Tesco on the morning milk run.

In truth, it can be very hard to know how best to respond to people who present as homeless. Many of us would like to help in some way, but we want to know we will be safe in doing so and that whatever we give will actually do something to assist rather than compound the problem. That’s why, this year, we at the Parish of Wanstead are coordinating the provision of food and support at the Forest Night Shelter.

Since the pandemic, most night shelters have changed how they operate. You may remember, a few years ago, we hosted a night shelter in the parish halls. However, it is now thought best to work with other caregivers to provide homeless people with a proper bed for the night, which is safer and more dignified for everyone concerned. Forest Night Shelter is partnering with Walthamstow YMCA this year. This is great news, as many of those who are homeless are in fact from Waltham Forest – and this means they will not have to travel to a different borough to find shelter.

Would you like to volunteer to help on Wednesday evenings at the night shelter? We are looking for volunteers to help on a few Wednesdays throughout the winter. You will be asked to cook a nutritious meal at home for about eight people, then take it along to the YMCA in Forest Road, Walthamstow, and help serve it to the guests that evening – chatting with them and making them feel welcome. No overnight stay is required and professionals will be onsite at all times. The more people who volunteer, the less often each will be required (we will be running from November to April). If you’d like to help, even if only for a couple of sessions, please get in touch.

Finally, a big thanks from me to the wonderful Wanstead people who have volunteered their time to help start our mental health outreach project ‘A Place To Be’. This is a drop-in for all adults who are struggling with their mental health and who would like a chat. It’s not professional therapy, but it is a chance to share with people who have been there themselves, in a non-judgmental safe space. The first monthly session is on Sunday 5 November at 5pm in Christ Church’s vestry (the small blue church door next to the halls). All are very welcome and there is also a monthly quiet service of wholeness and healing afterwards in the church at 6.30pm for anyone at all who feels they would benefit.

To contact Reverend James Gilder, email wansteadparishadmin@uwclub.net