The UK’s flagship Reform synagogue has told how it worked with a mosque to provide extra beds for some of London’s rough sleepers before the big freeze hit.
Interfaith and outreach volunteers at West London Synagogue (WLS), based near Marble Arch, teamed up with peers at Al-Manaar Mosque at Westbourne Park to provide beds and food in a joint emergency effort.
The extra beds were found when the national Severe Weather Emergency Protocol, which kicks in when the temperatures overnight are predicted to dip below a certain level, meaning local authorities have to provide beds to rough-sleepers.
“Westminster bears the brunt of that because it has by far the country’s largest concentration of rough-sleepers,” said Nic Schlagman WLS head of social action and interfaith, who helped coordinate, together with Saima Ahmed.
She convinced the mosque’s leadership to open its doors to 100 rough-sleepers and arranged with Crisis at Christmas, which has equipment such as beds and sheets, to deliver these to Al-Manaar.
WLS volunteers meanwhile arranged for Tinseltown, an American diner, to cater 100 meals each night for three nights of the emergency shelter and to get that food delivered.
Jewish volunteers on the synagogue’s interfaith and social action teams also jumped in the shul’s minibus and began driving around central London picking up rough sleepers and bringing them back to the mosque.
“It’s been a really good piece of work,” said Schlagman. “We managed to get something like 50 people off the streets last night. These people were the very last people, the very last shelter and the very beds.
“We got everyone looked after, supervised and safe. It’s been a really fantastic piece of work between the synagogue and the mosque. It’s not token interfaith stuff. We genuinely are the two places who are quick and motivated to get stuff done.”
Like WLS, the mosque runs night shelters as part of the Winter Night Shelter scheme, and the two worked together supporting children affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. They also collaborate on their rough-sleeper outreach project which is called Feeding Folk, a Jewish-Muslim project.
Al-Manaar will host tonight and the next couple of nights 50-100 homeless guests referred by Westminster Council and other Day Centres.
Posted by Al Manaar, the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre on Thursday, 1 March 2018