On a cold mid-November morning, a small team from the Swedish Chamber of Commerce for the UK headed from its Marylebone offices towards the West London Day Centre. Passing fancy looking parked Bentleys and shops aglow with Christmas decorations on our way, it was difficult to imagine that just 5 minutes’ walk from the comfort of the Chamber exists a completely different world.
As we got nearer, we recognise a man standing knocking on the same door we are heading for. A polite nod later, we realized that he is the same gentleman who normally sits on one of the street corners we pass on our way home from work. As we were let into the warmth of the centre, there were more familiar faces – but not people whom we have spoken to before, merely seen from a distance, some on a near daily basis.
We are visiting the West London Day Centre – a charity seeking to provide short term relief and long term solutions for homelessness. As per usual the Chamber hosts a grand raffle during its Annual Christmas Luncheon, and this year we are delighted to announce that the proceeds will go to the West London Day Centre.
Everyday about a hundred homeless people come to visit the centre for support and comfort. The essential part of the centre is helping homeless people in a critical situation, providing services to meet the basic needs. This could be simple, but yet so appreciated things like a hot meal, a shower and some clean warm clothes. When we speak with Guido Castellani, Assistant Fundraiser at the centre, he also points out apart from meeting basic needs the importance of assessing people as individuals and finding long term strategies to help them deal with homelessness. The key to this is finding a job and a long term accommodation, which the Centre assists with on a daily basis.
“During the past year, our Advice Service helped 366 people to move off the streets and into housing”, Castellani says proudly.
This cold mid-November morning, two of the current SCC staff; Johanna Bjarsch Follin and Lovisa Bergström, helped out at the centre by volunteering in the kitchen. During the morning they helped the chef serve breakfast to the centre’s visitors. Both enjoyed serving the breakfast.
“Everyone was really friendly and appreciative,“ they said upon their return.
“One of the things that really struck me was seeing how people socialized with each other, which I myself believe is very important if you are in a that vulnerable situation. No one wants to be alone,” said Bjarsch Follin.
Guido Castellani was very grateful for the help.
“We really believe this means something to our homeless users, after spending a night on the streets, to see a smiling face serving what might be their only hot meal that day”.
Since 2010, homelessness has more than doubled in England. On a daily basis the people at the centre see the effects of this unfortunate statistic. Behind the homeless statistics are people, each with an individual story, some very sad and often with complex relationships and situations. After spending some time at West London Day Centre, we can clearly see what they actually achieve and how needed their help is. Without getting any governmental support, the Centre is totally reliant on donations. Therefore we are delighted to contribute with the proceeds from this year's grand raffle.