The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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January 2017

CARIS Camden

Andrew Penny

Christian Action and Response in Society

No one seems quite sure what all the four Cs in C4WS stand for but Churches and Cold are there and W is for weather and S is for shelter and that is primarily, superficially perhaps, what C4WS is about. We do provide warmth, both physical and emotional, along with a comfy bed, dinner and breakfast and a shower, and that remains our core activity. Seven churches each night of the week welcome 16 guests (as our clients are called- and as indeed they are treated), seven before Christmas, from November and seven after until the end of March. But Physical and emotional comfort are not all that we provide. Momentarily, I sometimes feel just a little sorry for our guests who may not have appreciated when they signed up quite what a wave of welfare advice and help was about to break over them, and with which they will be expected to swim. The staff are kind, understanding, constructive and non-judgmental; they are also terrier like in their perseverance and determination to achieve what can be achieved for each guest, and they are equally demanding in their expectations. And it pays off; around 98% of guests who are willing to be helped and to make the considerable effort to engage with the regime prepared to help them, will have their lives more or less sorted out; they will have found a job, found affordable accommodation and been helped to survive in it (an experience which in some cases will be entirely new); in short they will have been set on a course of sustainable living.

The major focus of our welfare work recently has been our Jobs Club. Many of our guests have no recourse to public funds; to survive they must find work. The Jobs Club happens every Wednesday and about ten guests will come to the C4WS premises in Lancing St, just opposite Euston Station, where they will, with the help of a volunteer mentor each, follow a toolkit specially designed (and now copied by other similar organisations) which takes them from thinking about what sort of job they might realistically seek, to what preparations might be needed, and specifically how to create an attractive CV, and where to look for vacancies. We also provide help with interviews – some appropriate clothing to wear; how to present yourself in body and verbal language (all the things your Eton Housemaster would have taught you, only this is volunteers from local businesses) and we arrange internships. The Pret a Manger Foundation have been particularly helpful in this and they also give us a handsome grant.

The Jobs club runs alongside all the other welfare help, most of it done individually, sorting out identification, entitlement to benefits and accommodation, or explanation of what the options are, but there are also English classes for those who need it and Nutrition Classes for those setting up for themselves for the first time. Some guests may also come to the Friday Lunch Club which we run in conjunction with Kings Cross Methodist Church where I will be found being a dogsbody every Friday. This has a more domestic focus; the shelters are much more international.

Hampstead Parish Church has supported our C4WS project, and we are very grateful for that support. CARIS Camden, which is the charity which runs the C4Ws project has, however, a wider remit and we have recently started an after school club in a hostel providing temporary accommodation in Chalk Farm. Children who would otherwise be sharing one or two rooms with the rest of their family, have a chance to play in a space with books, toys, games and art. This is only twice a week but we hope to expand and also open a homework club for older children in a similar but bigger hostel nearby.

Both C4WS and the Families project rely on volunteers and as well as helping the homeless and poorly housed, we provide a valuable opportunity to realise the good will and energy of some 600 people, from congregations, businesses and colleges. This has remarkable effects on the community providing the support. It is perhaps something we at Hampstead Parish Church should consider.  Meanwhile, on behalf of the CARIS trustees, the staff and guests, Thank you very much for you valuable financial support.

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