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The Glasgow homeless club answering Pope’s call

Catholic charities in Scotland are responding to Pope Francis’ call for the faithful to pray for those who are homeless this winter as Scotland faces a weekend of freezing temperatures.

In his Angelus address to the audience in St Peter’s Square last Sunday, January 8, the Holy Father remembered those who are living and dying on the streets, asking that the Lord ‘warm our hearts to be able to help’ the homeless. In a period of freezing weather conditions in Rome, three Vatican-run hostels will remain open 24 hours a day.

As Unison have warned of an increase in the number of homeless people this year due to budget cuts to homelessness services in the city, the Pope’s message continues to resonate for Catholics across Scotland as the winter weather takes hold, with charities such as Glasgow’s Wayside Club continuing to help those who are homeless or who are faced with social exclusion.

Run by Catholic lay group the Legion of Mary, the Midland Street evening club has been attending to both the practical and spiritual needs of the homeless for more than eight decades, with spirituality being ‘crucial’ to the work the club do, according to long-time volunteer and secretary Jim White.

Mr White, who has volunteered at the centre for more than 60 years, spoke of how the number of people coming to visit the centre has dramatically increased over the decades. “When I first went up you would maybe have 10, 12, at most maybe 19 people,” he explained. Now, the centre sees over 70 people attend every week.

The demographic has also changed over the years, with the centre providing a safe space to not only those who are homeless but also others including asylum seekers, people seeking employment, and individuals struggling with drug addiction.

“We provide a place of safety, of warmth, a place where they can get help of one kind or another,” Mr White said. “We don’t try to be clinical; we try to be friendly, we try to create a good atmosphere.”

The club helps those in need every evening by providing food and drink, light entertainment, first-aid services, a small library, facilities for showering and shaving, a point of contact for referral to other services, and a small chapel where Mass is held on Sundays. The club strives to remain respectful by asking no questions about an individual’s situation. It is open every night of the year, something Mr White describes as ‘one of the main assets’ of the club.

While at times a job that can present its difficulties, it is one that undoubtedly offers much needed practical, spiritual and social support to those in need. “We try to give them their human respect back,” MrWhite said.


—This story ran in full in the January 13 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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