July 2nd, 2014
Hospitality is not something we can do on our own
At the Hurtado Jesuit Centre, we aim to be a place of welcome and community. Hospitality then is a very important activity for us on a daily basis. So when we were asked to host one of the weekly nights for the local night shelter, we were pleased to be part of a wider community of welcome here in Tower Hamlets.
Tom, who is part of the GrowTH organising team said: “It has been a brilliant season, really good. 155 people came over 7 months, all of whom were in danger of rough sleeping. They received warm hospitality, hot meals, a safe space… and many have moved on into permanent accommodation.” For guests the experience of being welcomed means “it is safe from the elements, weather and the danger of streets. It helps people focus and start to try to plan to get out of that situation and it is humanising, very community based. It gives people more a sense of purpose again. And for what is often a very international group, a sense that people in London do care.”
Speaking from his own experience, Diamond, volunteer, said: “We made a few friends of the guests, who are interesting people with good stories and it was a brilliant time, a good learning experience. Meeting them and seeing some of them progress was very uplifting. It is not only the beds and food, it is much more. They can talk. I was homeless myself, you spend all your energy trying to find food and somewhere to sleep, but when you have that provided, you can start making your life again.”
For the volunteers, he added: “For us it was the first time as a church doing the shelter, all of our volunteers were very happy to take part. Maybe in the beginning they were a bit lost maybe, but after a few nights of coming along they enjoyed talking to the guests and the whole experience. We as church now want to open a shelter in our church. It has been good working together with different groups as a team, same purpose.”
So what is hospitality? To quote Diamond: “I think it is just love, compassion for people, it is not about food and bed, it is someone to talk to.” For the Hurtado Jesuit Centre, offering our building has been a simple part to play. Yet, we have ourselves, as staff and community members, enjoyed being welcomed by both guests and volunteers for meals and conversations in our ‘own’ place. This reminds us that there is always mutuality and dignity in the experience of receiving and offering hospitality. It is not something that we can do on our own.
Read more about GrowTH and stories from their guests at: www.thisisgrowth.org