Hackney vicar invites homeless people into St James Church (instead of sleeping rough herself as originally planned)
- Credit: Ian Rathbone
A 64-year-old vicar who vowed to take her sleeping bag to Westminster to draw attention to the homelessness crisis thought better of it – and decided to throw open her church doors during the cold spell instead.
Rev Rosemia Brown from St James in Lower Clapton Road made the announcement at one of the discussion nights hosted by the Hackney Borough Ecumenical Deans Group every Thursday throughout Lent.
The vicar was so upset by the news that a homeless man had died of the cold, that said she’d sleep at Westminster until politicians started paying attention to the need to build more homes and house the homeless.
“They might throw us out but we won’t stop,” she said, throwing down the gauntlet by adding: “Who’s going to come with me?”
But that was before Rev Brown’s congregation got wind.
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“My members were very worried about me going to sleep outside,” she told the Gazette today.
“They said it’s much more helpful to let the people come into the church and sleep, rather than me lying down and helping nobody.
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“I could see the point of doing something that’s going to help more than something that’s about me.”
So on Friday, as temperatures plummeted below zero, Rev Brown and her congregation welcomed eight homeless people to sleep in the church, as an extension of the Hackney Winter Night Shelter service.
“My son and others went out to look for more and they didn’t want to go anywhere,” she said.
“I think they think it’s just one night, and ‘you might as well leave me where I am’.
“It’s difficult to deal with different people for different reasons, but when there is an emergency, it’s unacceptable there are so many empty places that are bordered up.
“Some of them don’t necessarily want a permanent place to be, but when it’s minus out there, I was in my bed thinking people are out there and they aren’t warm.”
The discussions are being held because Lent is traditionally a time for reflection and thought.
Remaining topics include gentrification at 7pm on March 8 at St Monica’s School, Hoxton; the generation gap on March 15 at Frampton Park Baptist Church; and refugees and migrants on March 22 at All Saints Haggerston.