Glass Door is London’s largest emergency winter night shelter, providing a safe, warm place to sleep for about 120 men and women a night in partnership with churches across southwest and west London. In January, seven churches in the borough of Richmond-upon-Thames joined the Glass Door network. St Mary’s with St Alban’s is now hosting twenty individuals every Sunday night until 8th April, when the shelter season ends.

The other six Richmond churches take turns to host a night shelter on the other days of the week, thus spreading out the responsibility so that it doesn’t become too great for any one institution.

With the help of volunteers, the network of churches provide an evening meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast and a warm welcome. Volunteers usually sit and eat dinner with the guests who come to stay for the night, allowing the men and women who use the shelters to experience a bit of normalcy so often sorely missed.

John Mulcahy, our Volunteer Coordinator, says: “Not having done anything like this before I really had no idea what to expect when the project was first mooted. We wondered whether we would get enough volunteers and I think quite a few of us wondered how we would manage the interaction with our roughsleeping guests. I had a sense that I needed to help but that it might be a bit of a trial. I feel very guilty now for harbouring any doubts.

“We were overwhelmed with fifty or more volunteers who wanted to help on the night or with breakfast the following morning or who wanted to bake cakes or make apple pies and crumbles or to knit hats or to donate tea/coffee/cocoa, sugar, marmalade, socks and custard. There really is a fantastic well of good will in our community from churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike.

“Everyone involved has found it to be an uplifting experience. It’s great that we are able to do something practical for people in need and especially great when we can see a little of the weight of the world lifted off their shoulders. The volunteers have been superb, putting our guests at ease and being friendly and hospitable – and of course knocking up the best Irish stew in London.”

Melissa Kerschen, Communications Manager at Glass Door, and John Mulcahy