Beth Shalom Reform Synagogue in Cambridge has been involved in a night shelter project with eight local churches.
This year the project has run from December 2015 to February 2016. The total number of volunteers across the project this season is in the region of 300 and 32 people have been provided with food and shelter over 47 nights.
A report from the organisers notes that behind these figures lies a remarkable commitment of time and energy from a very considerable number of people, not only from those actively engaged in hosting, cooking, cleaning, driving kit, and washing those 545 sleeping bag sheets, but also from the wider congregations as well, whose support and willingness to allow their buildings to be used has made so much possible.
This winter has seen a visible increase in homelessness in Cambridge with added pressures on the project. There have often been more people asking for shelter and a further number coming as supper guests, sometimes just to eat.
It is work, too, which brings with it an increasing awareness that homelessness – the lack of a roof – is only one aspect of the needs of the project’s guests, a symptom often of something much deeper rather than the problem itself, as guests tell their stories and reveal themselves as the unwilling victims of grief, trauma, bereavement or abuse. The work of the project has always included time with guests beyond the nightly care of supper and shelter.
Beth Shalom Chair, Mike Frankl said: “It has been an interesting project for Beth Shalom on two counts. As part of our commitment to tikkun olam, “repairing the World”, we have been part of a project involving eight churches and one synagogue, providing twelve homeless men every night since the beginning of December with a warm evening meal and a dry and safe place to sleep. Secondly, we have built new relationships with many people at some of the churches in Cambridge and hopefully that will lead to new co-operative projects”.