by Martin Whitlock
NO VISITOR to constitutes, according to Fr Westminster Cathedral Patrick O'Donoghue, the parishioner or local resident more particularly, no — can have failed to notice how the soaring campanile of Bentley's Byzantine edifice has become as a beacon to and himself involved in the
project, a "continuation and
development" of the work of the Cathedral's sub-administrator Sisters of Charity who have been helping the poor and the homeless in the area for over the homeless of the area. 100 years. Two of the sisters are
Churches throughout the involved full time in the work of capital have been familiar for the day centre.
some time with the importunity But for Fr O'Donoghue the of London's down and out most important thing about The population, but since the piazza Passage is the extent to which it was opened up on its Victoria has succeeded in involving the Street frontage the Cathedral parish in its work. He describes has become a particular focus, the support which it has and the authorities have even received from the Cathedral employed a "bouncer" to parish as "immense", both in its
maintain order. contribution of funds and in It was nonetheless with some providing volunteers.
surprise that I heard at one It is, he says, a community Sunday Mass the practice of based project, and the spiritual giving money to those who beg benefits which accrue to the for it at the Cathedral's doors parish in terms of the insight condemned as "positively which it can give into relative sinful". And yet is true that one spiritual and human values are knows that the money collected as great as the benefits of its in this way will be spent on drink work are to those whom it — and will lead to the early serves. It is definitely not an demise of the recipient. outlet for do-goodery: there is as We were exhorted instead to much to learn as there is help to
give our money to The Passage, be dispensed.
which is a newly opened day And it is true that in viewing centre for the homeless in the the problems of the homeless Cathedral parish, and it is a from close to one gains a new measure of the high level of perspective. So far from being awareness — and no doubt also people who are, in the popular of guilt — which this problem estimation, "not prepared to generates that I have never seen help themselves-, there are so many high denomination many who have encountered banknotes in a retirement appalling difficulties simply in collection plate, here or trying to obtain their legal
Which is not to say that The It is particularly hard for a Passage is anything other than homeless person to get strapped for funds, such is the treatment from a local doctor, demand for its shelter and for example. Some I was told of services. It is open every had "tried and tried" to get weekday from 7 until 2.30, and medical help, only to be turned
n that time they serve 600 cups away by receptionists at A tea to 150 or more people with surgeries.
iowhere else to go, as well as And even though local four gallons of porridge, lunch authorities are obliged to' find for 50.60 and vast numbers of accommodation for the over 65s
sandwiches and other snacks. these people often have little The food is charged for at idea how to set about taking up around cost price, although for their entitlement.
those with no money there is And of course The Passage free bread and butter available. has its own problems, mostly of There are, however, two full a financial nature. It costs time paid staff members, and £25,000 a year to keep the beyond day accommodation and centre open, but currently food the services provided £160,000 is being sought to carry include medical assistance from out essential improvements to a volunteer nurse and a weekly the facilities. The CLC has put doctor's surgery, washing in £60,000 in the past year, but it facilities, clothes, and housing is surprising that the local advice and counselling on Westminster City Council has specific problems. not gone further in supporting
The paid staff is backed up by what is on any estimation a four, full time volunteers and a valuable local amenity.
body of between 30 and 40 part Their contribution this year time volunteer helpers. has been £250 which, according
The Passage is situated in the to Assistant Director dielen basement of St Vincent's Johnston, might cover the cost Convent in Carlisle Place and it of one month's bread.