A night shelter catering for Leicester’s rough sleepers is the first multi-faith programme of its kind in Britain, rotating between a Muslim community centre, a Hindu temple, a synagogue, and Anglican and Catholic churches.
The shelter opened on Monday 12th December and provides a safe place to sleep for 10 homeless men. The beneficiaries also receive hot meals and support from volunteers. More than 200 people of different faiths and backgrounds have already pledged to get involved with the project.
Homelessness is undeniably on the rise in Britain, with government statistics in 2015 showing that more than 3,500 people were sleeping rough in England on any night. This is over double the number recorded in 2010. In 2015/16, more than 114,000 families applied to their local authority for homelessness assistance, a rise of 11% since 2010/11.
Figures on homelessness often merely reveal a fraction of the true problem, as many of the ‘hidden homeless’ live in temporary accommodation such as a hostel, B&B or squat. Others live in ‘concealed housing’, which means residing on the floor or sofa of a friend or family member.
The multi-faith night shelter project’s manager, Salma Ravat, told the Guardian: “For most of the faith venues, this is the first time they’ve provided night shelter for rough sleepers. We refer to them as ‘guests’ because we’re trying to create a warm, welcoming environment, in which people are treated with respect”.
Ravat also said that the response to a call for volunteers was overwhelming. “Not all of them are religious, but we’re encouraging them to volunteer at venues that aren’t necessarily familiar to them – Muslims in churches, or Christians in synagogues for example.
“It’s hugely important for people to have experience of working with or living alongside or making friends with people of different faiths or religions. A project like this brings everyone together in a shared desire to help, and takes away a lot of barriers. It’s really humbling to see how friendships develop, and the impact this can have on our society.”
Human Appeal is proud to be part of this wonderful project, that not only provides a safe, warm environment for Leicester’s rough sleepers, but also brings together people of varied faiths to serve a common purpose.