At the end of a week of upheaval in response to the spread of coronavirus, London City Mission ministries are finding practical ways to share the love of Christ.
Webber Street Day Centre has quickly put in place a new way of working that aims to offer the best service to its guests, and to do all that is possible to curb the spread of infection.
It's the end of the first week of lockdown and today the team is low in number due to being in quarantine, self-isolation or sick. Three are greeting the guests and three working in the kitchen.
A sign outside says that the centre is running a reduced service. The building is closed to guests, and instead a breakfast of a ham and cheese roll, yoghurt, fruit and a carton of fruit juice is handed out from the side door.
By 9.15 a group of around thirty-five men has gathered. Five or six arrive a little later.
Staff serve everybody as quickly as possible and encourage them to move on. It’s about keeping contact time to an absolute minimum, Acting Manager Nick Labiche says as he arranges the tables outside and organises the queue to ensure everybody keeps their distance.
In the normal running of the centre, the team gives a lot of attention to being hospitable to the guests; serving the teas and coffees is the first opportunity to check in, and give a proper welcome to the centre.
Mission Associate Daniel Taylor is handing out food, greeting each person by name, passing the bags with a brief friendly word and keeping the queue moving.
Moving people takes a bit of persistence. For the guests, Webber Street is an essential point of connection for conversation and friendship, and it’s natural to want to chat and linger for a while.
Fifteen minutes later everyone has their food and has dispersed.
What’s being demonstrated here, as every day at the day centre, is that the staff at Webber Street are in for the long haul, that their message of good news in Jesus Christ is part of an authentic commitment to the guests which endures through good times and bad.
This is an interim response only, which will last for as long as it’s necessary. The government is pushing for all rough sleepers to be given individual emergency accommodation in bed and breakfasts and hotels, so that people who are without homes can comply with the lockdown measures and minimise contact with others. Staff at Webber Street have been in contact with local government to find ways to help get guests into safe accommodation during the crisis.