by Rita Wall CARDINAL Basil Hume has opened a night shelter in the hall of his cathedral to cater for those sleeping rough over Christmas. As a response to growing numbers of homeless at night on the piazza outside the cathedral, the cardinal approved the opening of a temporary refuge in the church buildings until the end of March. Last week, the cardinal joined other English and Welsh bishops in condemning government inactivity on the "scandal" of homelessness in Britain.
The Cathedral Hall is kitted out with mattresses and will be open from 11 pm until 6.30 am. "Then it will be cleared up for groups who use it during the day," explained Charles Wookey, spokesperson for the cardinal. The shelter is to be staffed by workers from The Passage, a day centre for the homeless.
Shelter, the national campaign for the homeless, of which Cardinal Hume is a patron, has welcomed increasing public interest in the problem of homelessness. However, the money promised by Prime Minister John Major, last week, will not solve the problem, according to press officer Jessica Morris.
Nearly £96 million has been set aside over the next three years by the government for temporary shelters and basic sanitation for those sleeping rough.
"Injection of cash can alleviate the problem, but what is needed is a comprehensive housing policy over a number of years to halt the growing crisis," said Ms Morris.
A report published by Shelter this week points out that a record 33,000 homeless families will spend Christmas in temporary housing.