Charity of the Month

 

Acton Homeless Concern

Emmaus House/Damien Centre

Jesus said, “...I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing.” 

The Gospel of St Matthew

 

I’m sure if you were to ask the staff of Acton Homeless Concern, what was the ethos behind the initiatives of Emmaus House and the Damien Centre, the above quote of Jesus would not be far from their lips.  Both initiatives are a response of the Sacred Hearts Community (part of the Catholic Church at Our Lady of Lourdes in Acton) to the needs of many local homeless and poor who came to the church seeking food clothing, friendship, counselling and professional advice.  They function as the practical Christian response to the social realities of the poor, the homeless, the alcoholic, and the mentally anxious.

Emmaus House is in the centre of Acton: easily accessible to all in need who find it a safe haven, a place of calm, friendship and divine love.  Lunches are provided for l00 to120 people, five days a week. The food is prepared in a smartly renovated kitchen, cooked by a committed team. of volunteers. 

Besides getting a good meal at Emmaus House, people have access to a wide range of other services too.  On certain days it is possible for clients to see a doctor, dentist, chiropodist, barber, or even an optician (all of whom give their time on a voluntary basis).  A drug counsellor visits the house once a month and clients can get referrals for further advice and counselling.  Showers are available for those who want them, and clothes are given to those who need them.  There are a couple of Alcoholics Anonymous groups on the premises, twice weekly in the evenings and once on a Tuesday afternoon.  There is also a prayer group, a mental health and spirituality group. A mother and children's group meets weekly,

to help mothers with a variety of problems. These often include debt, failure to apply for benefits available to them, and difficulties with reading and writing.  All these problems are addressed with support and help from volunteers (including literacy classes when wanted).  The activities at the house endeavour to meet a very broad range of needs.

The Damien Centre is an evening centre in Church Road.  Named after Father Damien of Molokai who worked with lepers in Ireland until he contracted the fatal disease.  This new centre has been running for three years now, building on the ethos of servanthood of its namesake Father Damien.  This drop-in is open from 4pm-8pm and provides food and social activities for the isolated and marginalized. It also provides a quite space upstairs for those who wish to read, or chat in a non-smoking environment. The centre has many links with community groups that provide financial contribution towards refreshments. The success of both projects is due to the considerable work of the volunteers, who come from various walks of life.  Some volunteers have themselves been in difficult situations in the past and so have a particularly good understanding of the problems that many of the users face.

Many who attend the centres do have problems with alcohol some; have mental health problems; others have found it difficult to cope with tragedies of the past.  It is too easy to judge them as products of their own wrong choices.  Yes they have their faults but for many, life has been particularly cruel and their condition gives them a humility that leaves them open to more important values, not considered by many in the mainstream. of life.  The approach of Emmaus House and the Damien Centre are non-judgemental.  We must not be arrogant as to distinguish between the worthy and unworthy poor.  Where the poor and needy are, Christ is also, and evident within the people who attend the two centres is the presence of Christ.

Emmaus House and The Damien Centre have received national recognition for their work, but the focus is as a local project involved with Acton, and they are grateful for the support they receive from local people and organisations.

 

 

 

 


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