The impression left by a one-off encounter years ago led David Harris to volunteer at the Webber Street Day Centre in Waterloo.
I was first confronted by homelessness sixty years ago when I was working in Baker Street. I had got a job to get out, so I was in the office late.
The bell went downstairs and there was this homeless man asking for something.
I invited him in and immediately saw that his feet were terrible – absolutely covered with cuts and sores. I got a bowl of warm water and I just washed his feet.
I then called a taxi and we went to one of the hostels they had in Baker Street in those days, and they took him in.
As soon as they took him, it’s almost as if the Holy Spirit said, ‘Go! Disappear.’ So I left straight away. But that encounter had a very, very marked impression upon me. It was one of the most vivid experiences of my life. It had a profound effect upon me.
Soon after I retired, in 2002, I met Harry Vallance from LCM in the Vine Coffee Bar to talk about voluntary work. As soon as he mentioned a breakfast for the homeless in Waterloo, my mind went straight back to this encounter, years before. I knew then that Webber Street was where I should come, and I’ve been here ever since.
I’ve met some lovely people among the guests – they really are treasures. You get to build up a fair amount of rapport with them.
I see my role as befriending them, encouraging them to keep coming, and to get to know the missionaries and find out what they could do to help you get a job or somewhere to live.
You get sad situations, such as one guy who had an infection on his leg and definitely needed to go to the hospital. But he wouldn’t go.
A missionary and I together arranged to meet him in the afternoon and take him. We said we’d sit with him if necessary. I thought he would lose his leg if he didn’t get to do something about it soon.
He didn’t turn up. In fact, I haven’t seen him for a bit. But there again people come to us for a while and then move on. We often don’t see them again.
I would say it’s easier to talk about the Lord here than it is in almost any other situation I can think of.
You’d be surprised the number of Christians who do come in and you have some really good chats with them. You can share the word and encourage some of the things like that.
I think you’ve just got to be simple and clear with the gospel.
I just love doing anything they ask me to do here, but if I’m asked to preach that’s really one of my highlights. I always try and preach the gospel, because you never know if this may be the first or last time they ever hear it.
Whenever I can just talk about Jesus with people in a non-pressurising way I will.
Now it is like washing feet really. You’d have a good chat with them and to make them – you know that they’ve they come in from one situation, and they’re going leave in a slightly different place because you have talked with them that morning.